HomeNewsBriefColombia Investigates Over 100 Disappearances from Bogotá Prison
BRIEF

Colombia Investigates Over 100 Disappearances from Bogotá Prison

AUC / 18 FEB 2016 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Prosecutors in Colombia believe over 100 people were murdered, dismembered and disappeared in a Bogotá prison between 1999 and 2001, in a macabre example of how armed groups and drug traffickers turned Colombian prisons into hubs of organized crime.

Colombia's prosecutor's office has announced it is investigating the disappearances of at least 100 people in Modelo prison, who they believe were murdered and their dismembered bodies disposed of in the prison sewage system.

According to witness testimonies, the disappearances were carried out by paramilitaries from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), who at the time ruled over the prison wing where the investigation is focused.

The prosecutor leading the case, Caterina Heyck Puyana, said the victims were not only prisoners, but also their families and other people from the outside.

In an interview with radio station La FM, Heyck described how the paramilitaries, as well as drug traffickers and guerrilla groups, ruled over their sections of the prisons, running a variety of criminal activities including arms and drug trafficking and prostitution with the complicity of corrupt officials.

InSight Crime Analysis

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, prisons such as Modelo were commonly divided into three wings, one for guerrilla groups, one for their paramilitary enemies, and one for common criminals. Each were able to form heavily armed criminal structures to rule over their respective areas, and deadly confrontations between them were common.

According to media investigations and testimonies of demobilized fighters, the paramilitaries also used prisons to collect drug debts and ransoms, hold kidnap victims, and carry out murders.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

Journalist Jineth Bedoya, whose kidnapping from Modelo prison in 2000 was the starting point for the current investigation, said that at the time Modelo was "the office from where the biggest crime networks in the country were managed."

Although evidence of people being dismembered and disappeared has long circulated, the current investigation is the first indication of the scale of the atrocities, which prosecutors say were likely repeated in numerous paramilitary controlled prisons around the country.

Currently, Colombian prisons remain a hotbed of corruption, crime and appalling conditions. However, despite their weaknesses, they are no longer directly ruled by armed groups as they were in the early 2000s.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 12 OCT 2018

The seizure of more than 7 metric tons of drugs from users in nine days in Colombia after a decree…

COLOMBIA / 19 SEP 2017

A jailed Ecuadorean drug capo is claiming to be a member of Colombia's demobilized FARC guerrilla group in order to…

CARACHO / 26 DEC 2011

A mass paramilitary surrender resulted in just 21 arrests this weekend in Colombia. The rest of the estimated 269 members…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…