Deportation officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) on Tuesday removed a former Colombian national army battalion commander accused of human rights violations.
Retired Lt. Col. Oscar Gomez Cifuentes, 53, was implicated in five killings in Colombia that allegedly occurred while he was the commander of Infantry Battalion 43 Efrain Rojas Acevedo.
These allegations relate to a disputed report stating that five persons were killed by the battalion during a confrontation at a Colombia ranch in November 2007.
This incident was among other incidents reported by military units as “positive” killings of guerrillas in combat; but later these killings were alleged to have been executions committed outside of combat.
Such killings are referred to as “false positives.”
(Six years after one of Colombia’s darkest scandals arose, justice seems impossible for the victims’ families. The “false positive” scandal is used to refer to the extrajudicial killings of civilians by members of the armed forces who dressed their victims as guerrillas in order to present them as combat kills. The mothers of the famous cases in Bogota’s suburb, called Soacha, anxiously await justice for their lost sons. Courtesy of CGTN America and YouTube. Posted on Nov 22, 2014)
Between 2008 and 2014, Gomez was admitted into the United States three times as a temporary non-immigrant visitor through New York and Miami.
He departed as required the first two times, but he overstayed his visa in 2014.
On April 4, 2017, a federal immigration judge ordered him removed back to Colombia; Gomez appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
On June 10, 2017, ERO Miami officers assigned to ICE’s Fugitive Operations Team arrested Gomez, and he was taken into custody pending his appeal to the BIA regarding his removal order.
However, on Aug. 24, 2017, he withdrew his appeal.
(The Mothers of Soacha are mothers, wives and sisters of 19 young men forcibly disappeared and killed by the Colombian Army in late 2007 on the outskirts of Bogota. The discovery of their bodies sparked what later became known as the “false positives” scandal, in which 5,000 civilians were killed and reported as guerrilla casualties. Historical memory of this and other crimes is a key element in the country’s peace process. Courtesy of TeleSUR English and YouTube. Posted on Nov 21, 2015)
This case was litigated by ICE’s Office of the Chief Counsel in Miami with the support of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC).
Established in 2009 to further ICE’s efforts to identify, track, and prosecute human rights abusers, the HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians, and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
The unit has four important missions:
- To prevent the admission of foreign war crimes suspects, persecutors and human rights abusers into the United States.
- To identify and prosecute individuals who have been involved and/or responsible for the commission of human rights abuses across the globe.
- To remove, whenever possible, those offenders who are located in the United States.
- To oversee the development of programs in response to the former President’s Presidential Study Directive-10, the prevention of mass atrocities.
It leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes.
During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.
Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States.
(Learn More about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operates the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU) within the National Security Investigations Division (NSID). Courtesy of ICE and YouTube)
Currently, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries.
Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the United States.