FARC ‘abortion nurse’ to be tried for crimes in Colombian court

Fighters from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are seen during the closing ceremony of a rebel congress near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia, September 23, 2016. (Credit: REUTERS /John Vizcaino)

Spain has agreed to extradite to Colombia a former FARC rebel who prosecutors said performed hundreds of forced abortions on minors and indigenous members of armed groups, often in late stages of pregnancy.

Éctor Albeldís Arboleda Buitrago, also known as the “abortion nurse” or “nurse of the FARC,” is accused of having carried out up to 300 forced abortions between 1998 and 2004, La Opinión reported.

“Colombian authorities are calling for his prosecution on account of his alleged responsibility for murder, attempted murder, abortion without consent and illicit association,” according to a document from the Spanish Council of Ministers, La Opinión reported.

Arboleda Buitrago, who has dual Colombian and Spanish nationality, was detained in Madrid in December 2015. On Friday, Spanish authorities agreed to hand him over to a court in Bogota. La Opinión reported that he is currently in a provisional prison in Spain while waiting to be transferred to his country of origin.

His arrest was part of an investigation into more than 150 cases of forced abortion by FARC rebels.

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Arboleda Buitrago had been working as a nurse with no medical training, and that the abortions were carried out in filthy conditions, with no medication, on women who were sometimes minors and often in late stages of pregnancy, Colombian prosecutors said in a BBC report. Colombian authorities said the women came from indigenous communities and should have been protected during their pregnancies.

The FARC has repeatedly denied accusations of forced abortions, ensuring that its members had access to contraceptive measures.

However, a report by investigators from the University of Serbio Arboleda released in April 2015 found that women were forced to abort so as not to undermine their fighting ability. If they refused, investigators found the women were often tried and sentenced to death.

The FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) are Colombia’s largest rebel group, founded in 1964 as the armed wing of the Communist Party. At the time, its founders were small landowners and farmers who had banded together to fight against high levels of inequality in Colombia.

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In November, the FARC and the Colombian government announced a second peace agreement – after a previous one was rejected in a national referendum – that ended the half-century conflict that left 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

So far, the pursuit of peace has proved difficult. Insight Crime reported that the government has been slow to set up infrastructure necessary for the FARC to disarm, prompting some factions of the rebels to desert the group in violation of the cease-fire. Colombia has also seen a rise in paramilitary violence against Colombia’s left-wing activists, indigenous leaders and members of the Patriotic March party, with at least 58 activists killed just last year.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that all of the FARC’s 10,000-some members are at or currently traveling to demobilization camps around the country. U.N. officials are assisting Colombian authorities with special justice proceedings against rebels accused of crimes against humanity, as well as reintegration and victim reparation efforts.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau, email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org or see her latest work at www.lisanikolau.com