Is Colombia reviving mass arrests of innocent civilians?

Colombia’s defense minister announced the arrest of more than 300 people in an operation similar to the fake operations under former President Alvaro Uribe that landed thousands of innocent people in jail.

In a press conference, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that “an unprecedented number” of 307 alleged kidnappers and extortionists were arrested in “Operation Pharao.”

National Police director Oscar Atehortua said that his men carried out 147 raids in 25 of the country’s 32 province as well as in the capital Bogota.

The simultaneous arrests were allegedly part of an offensive against criminal gangs dedicated to extortion and kidnapping.

National Police commander General Oscar Atehortua (Screenshot: YouTube)

Only 25 of the 307 people who were arrested were effectively charged with a crime, said Atehortua.

Mass arrests like those in Operation Pharao under former President Alvaro Uribe, the political patron of far-right President Ivan Duque, turned out to be mass human rights violations meant for show.

Colombia’s war crimes tribunal is investigating the practice that landed 6,000 innocent Colombians in jail in the two years after Uribe took office in 2002.

Many of these alleged “subversives” were arrested randomly and never charged with any crime, according to a report on the practice of mass arrests several organization surrendered to the war crimes tribunal.

In “Operation Mariscal,” which was carried out on August 17, 2003, 156 people were arrested in Colombia’s Caribbean region as part of a criminal investigation that was started only four days prior.

The arrests were based on testimonies of members of Uribe’s controversial “civilian participation network” that consisted of political supporters of the far-right former president and included members of paramilitary organization AUC.

Duque to revive controversial civilian informant network

Because a judge found no evidence any of the detainees had committed any crime, all were released six weeks after local media reported the

The mass arrest was a “key element” of Uribe’s so-called “Democratic Security” policy, newspaper El Tiempo reported in early 2004.

The government assures that this has been an effective strategy to isolate the guerrillas and disrupt their support logistics.

El Tiempo

Uribe’s show arrest were reported in the press as “major blows to the guerrillas,” but created major anxiety as any critic of the government could be arrested on trumped “rebellion” or “conspiracy to commit a crime” charges, human rights organization CINEP reported in 2004.

The mass arrests were among the least criminal elements of Uribe’s “security” policy, which included the assassination of thousands of civilians to present them as guerrillas killed in combat that also were presented in the media as “major blows” against guerrilla groups like the ELN and the now-demobilized FARC.

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