Colombian landmine victims demand probe of rebel groups

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Victims of landmine explosions rallied outside Colombia’s peace tribunal Monday to demand an investigation of rebel groups that have placed the explosives around the country, injuring thousands of civilians and troops.

The small group of victims was led by congressman Jose Jaime Uscategui, who said the special peace tribunal was not doing enough to investigate crimes committed by rebel groups against civilians and member of the military.

“We need to hold individuals responsible for these kind of attacks” Uscategui said. “Victims have the right to see the face of those who were responsible, and there has to be some kind of sanction.”

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace was created in 2016 as part of a peace treaty between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Among its tasks is to look into war crimes and come up with reparation plans for victims.

Colombia’s government says more than 12,000 landmine victims have been registered. Mines are still being used in remote areas by FARC holdouts and other rebel groups that are fighting over drug trafficking routes and other resources abandoned by the FARC following the peace deal.

“History is repeating itself because of the mantle of impunity enjoyed by those who use landmines,” said Nelson Moreno, a former soldier who attended the protest.

Moreno stepped on a mine while he was on patrol in 2011 in Meta province. The explosion destroyed several bones on his right foot, and he now needs to walk on crutches.

The Red Cross says that in the first three months of this year, 218 people were injured by landmines and other explosives in Colombia, including 150 civilians. That was up 25% from the same period last year.

Alvaro Jimenez, director of the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines said it is important for Colombian society to learn more about the “level of cruelty” with which landmines were deployed during the conflict between Colombia’s government and the FARC.

Fabricating or deploying landmines is illegal under Colombian law, but Jimenez said that he only knew of one investigation that had led to a sentence in the country’s regular justice system.

On Monday, victims of landmines around the world commemorated the international day for mine awareness and assistance in mine action.

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