Report: U.S. military personnel sexually abused at least 54 Colombian girls
According to a recently released 800-page independent report, U.S. soldiers and military contractors sexually abused more than 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007, and have not been prosecuted due to bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity for U.S. officials.
The report was commissioned by the Colombian government and rebel group FARC, who are in the middle of negotiating the end of a 50-year-long conflict. The document is meant to help determine responsibility for the more than 7 million victims of the armed battle.
One section of the report, assembled by Renan Vega of the Pedagogic University in Bogota, focuses on the involvement of American military in supporting the Colombian state’s fight against FARC and other leftist rebel groups. It details the “abundant information [that exists] about the sexual violence, [committed] in absolute impunity.”
The report cites one instance when, in the central Colombian town of Melgar, nearby stationed military contractors allegedly sexually abused 53 underage girls, filmed it, and sold the footage as pornographic material.
In another case that received widespread attention in Colombian media, a 12-year-old was reportedly drugged and raped in a military base by U.S. Army sergeant Michael J Coen and defense contractor Cesar Ruiz. However, Colombian prosecutors were not allowed to arrest the suspects due to immunity arrangements agreed upon by Washington and Bogota, and they were flown out of the country. While the U.S. Embassy in Bogota told Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald in 2009 that the U.S. government has not ruled out the possibility of indicting Coen and Ruiz, no court has done so in the subsequent six years.
The victims and families of the abused were all reportedly forced to flee the region after receiving death threats from forces loyal to the suspects.
According to Colombia Reports, one the country’s major English language news media outlets, there are at least 37 other unconfirmed allegations of sexual abuse against women and children committed by active American soldiers, which would total more than 90 cases of abuse between 2004 and 2007 alone.
Colombia’s National Victims Unit has registered 7,234 Colombian women as victims of sex crimes in the decades that the conflict has been ongoing.