Colombian army fires 31 members for alleged sex abuse against minors

by Reuters
Friday, 3 July 2020 22:18 GMT

In one case soldiers allegedly sexually abused a young girl who was held at an army site for several days without food or water

BOGOTA, July 3 (Reuters) - The Colombian army said on Friday it fired 31 of its members accused of involvement with sexual abuse or violence against minors, amid recent accusations of sex abuse of young girls by soldiers.

At least 118 members of the army have been investigated since 2016 for sex crimes against minors, the head of the army said earlier this week.

"Thirty-one members were removed from the institution: 12 sub-officials and 19 soldiers. This administrative measure was taken in accordance with legal norms that regulate personnel and by decision of the head of the national army," the army said in a statement.

Colombians demand tough punishments in rape of indigenous girl

The fired soldiers and officials will still face disciplinary and criminal investigations which could result in jail time.

Those who lost their jobs on Friday are among the 118 investigated since 2016, the army said.

Seven soldiers were arrested last week for alleged sexual abuse of an indigenous girl in Risaralda province. All seven men and three of their superiors have been fired, while two higher-up officials have been re-assigned.

Another case - that of a young girl allegedly sexually abused by various soldiers while being held at an army site in Guaviare province for several days without food or water - emerged last weekend.

The army has denied a systematic effort to protect army members implicated in acts of sexual violence against minors.

The Colombian army has 240,000 members and leads the country's fight against leftist guerrillas and crime gangs founded by former members of right-wing paramilitary groups.

The army has long been accused by victims and human rights groups of rights violations during Colombia's more than five decades of internal conflict. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Daniel Wallis)