Colombian Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega Sentenced To 30 Years For Forced Disappearances
June 10, 2010 By Staff
Today in Latin America
Top Story — Colombian Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Wednesday, after being convicted of the forced disappearance of 11 people during the storming of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in 1985.
The M-19, a left-wing guerrilla group that has since been disbanded, occupied the Palace and took judges hostage. The Army, led by Colonel Plazas, counterattacked and a day-long battle ensued, destroying the building and leading to the deaths of more than 100 people, according to The BBC.
Plazas was not convicted for violence that occurred during the battle, but rather of the forced disappearance of 11 survivors, who went missing after they left the Palace on Nov. 7, 1985, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo.
The conviction was seen as a landmark by Colombian human rights groups, The BBC reports.
Colombian President Álvaro Uribe criticized the decision, saying that Plazas was “a member of the Armed Forces of Colombia who was simply trying to fulfill his duty.”
Uribe made the comments at a press conference at the Casa de Nariño with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was visiting to discuss security issues and sign a bilateral agreement on science and technology.
Clinton affirmed the U.S. commitment to Colombian anti-drug and anti-insurgency efforts, regardless of who wins an upcoming, second-round presidential election.
“The United States has been proud to stand with Colombia and we will continue to stand with you in the future,” Clinton said at the press conference with Uribe, according to The Associated Press.
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