The Padilla case and crimes against humanity

Colombia – Armed conflict – General Padilla

The notorious term “falsos positivos” (false positives) refers to a common practice of the Colombian military. Hundreds of civilians were indiscriminately killed so that their bodies could be presented as combat casualties. These falsely reported combat casualties helped the military inflate operational figures, and also, were used to obtain professional compensation, such as promotions and vacations.

These crimes were committed by the government in a systematic and general manner, and thus, can be considered as crimes against humanity. Responsible for these acts – also those committed by subordinates – are higher ranking military officials, which have not been punished yet. General Freddy Padilla de León was the General Commander of the Colombian Military Forces when the practice of “falsos positivos” escalated, and the scandal became publicly known. Padilla is presumably responsible for international crimes committed by his subordinates, because he knew of the crimes, but neither prevented, nor punished the wrongdoers.


At present, General Freddy Padilla de León is the Colombian ambassador in Austria, as well as being accredited in Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. He also serves as the permanent representative at the Office of the United Nations in Vienna. Due to his diplomatic position, Padilla can only be criminally prosecuted if his diplomatic immunity is removed.

ECCHR has elaborated a dossier about General Freddy Padilla de León and his presumed responsibility for crimes against humanity. The dossier was presented mid-August 2013 to the respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs, with the request that he be declared an unwanted person (persona non grata) and that consequently his diplomatic immunity be removed.


Since receiving the dossier, the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs is investigating the allegations against Padilla, as well as examining possible diplomatic responses. In answer to the publication of the dossier, the Colombian Chancellery announced that Padilla filed his resignation request – just a few weeks after the submission of ECCHR’s dossier – and that he will formally resign and return to Colombia in November 2013.

ECCHR demands that in the accreditation process of Colombian diplomatic personnel, serious investigations are carried out by competent law enforcement authorities prior to the issuing of visas regarding allegations of international crimes.

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glossary (3)



A dossier is collection of documents and information, generally relating to a specific person or event, that can submitted to a court or other authority.

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For decades, Colombia has suffered under an armed conflict that particularly affects the civilian population. In the course of this conflict (and after), human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists have been labeled as guerrilla fighters, making them into ostensibly legitimate military targets for the Colombian army and paramilitary groups.
In light of the ongoing violence suffered by human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists, and the crucial importance of their work for a free and democratic society, there is an urgent need to take legal action and deter future attacks. The same applies to the widespread sexual violence against women, which is committed by all parties to the conflict and is part of the military strategy. There is a real need to challenge the impunity often enjoyed by those responsible, especially by higher ranking officials. Impunity is also rife when it comes to the impact of transnational corporations' business practices in Colombia. The role of companies in human rights violations is rarely investigated, let alone examined before a court.

In light of the above, the situation in Colombia – which is representative of many recurring global human rights violations – is a focus area of ECCHR's work. The goal is to hold accountable those responsible for international crimes, including the most powerful actors.  Since to date there have been no effective investigations against high-level state officials in Colombia, ECCHR and its Colombian partner organizations are also calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action.


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