Colombia’s Attorney announced Wednesday that it is investigating the disappearance of some hundred inmates at the capital’s La Modelo prison.
The victims are believed to have been murdered, their bodies dismembered and subsequently thrown into drainage channels, between 1999 and 2000, daily El Tiempo reported.
The prison houses left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and drug dealers as well as common criminals.
“Since last year the investigation was initiated into the serious violations of human rights, disappearances and the dismemberment of several people whose remains were dumped in the sewer,” said Caterina Heyck Puyana, Director of Specialized National Prosecution, according to information released.
“The ‘disappeared’ persons are believed to be prisoners, visitors and people from outside the prison, whose remains were dumped in the prison sewers,” she said.
According to Heyck, only La Modelo prison in Bogotá is currently under investigation.
The Attorney General reported Thursday that in Bogotá’s Modelo prison a group of paramilitaries operated between 1999 and 2003, the period in which the disappearance and dismemberment of several people allegedly occurred.
Heyck explained in an interview with Caracol Radio that there had been no progress made in the investigation given that “there had not been a specific study carried out on the existence of a block (paramilitary), called ‘Capital inner block.'”
Referring to cases of dismemberment, the official warned that “there was complicity of public officials,” there was “corruption” and a “complicated phenomenon of trafficking in weapons.”
She said that the operation involved the practice of quartering and throwing the remains of people in the water ducts.
Heyck said it is still unclear how many people disappeared in prison.
“It will be a very complex investigation because these people were dismembered and went missing in jail, it wasn’t just people who were inside, there were relatives, visitors, people who came from other parts of the country,” she said.
She also confirmed that investigations regarding these events are ongoing.
“The horrors of what happened in this prison will be analyzed by the prosecution, but it also requires a deep reflection by Colombian society.”
Investigators are evaluating whether these murders were committed by a criminal network constructed within the same prison for paramilitary commanders, FARC guerrillas and drug dealers, who ran an arms trafficking business.
In order to accelerate the legal investigation a special group of prosecutors from the Transitional Justice Unit was set up, who already carried out several judicial inspections to La Modelo in the capital.
The prosecution also asks whether the same criminal practice would have occurred in prisons like San Isidro (Popayán), La Modelo (Bucaramanga) and El Bosque (Barranquilla).
Similarly, the prosecuting body does not rule out initiating investigations against officials of INPEC – the national prison service – for the alleged concealment of such criminal practices in prisons.