Further investigations into the January 2021 May Kado massacre have unravelled more details of the extrajudicial killings that were brazenly filmed in Ethiopia's Tigray Region during the Tigray War. This is a representational image. PIXABAY

Colombia's government apologized on Tuesday for the extrajudicial killings of 19 civilians by rebel fighters during the nation's civil war.

"These (killings) should have never happened," Iván Velásquez Gómez, minister of National Defense of Colombia, said during an event, which was attended by relatives of the 19 victims, AP News reported. "We ask you to forgive us for these crimes that embarrass us in front of the world."

The tragic killings happened between 2004 to 2008 when the Colombian military conflict intensified against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. However, the rebel group and the government made peace in 2016.

These killings were reportedly carried out by luring young men away from their homes with a fake promise of getting jobs in another country. Later, soldiers killed these civilians and placed weapons next to their bodies, claiming that they were rebels who had been killed in combat.

These activities were done to get promotions. Several Colombian courts have told the government to apologize for such "false positives" since 2015. The courts have also ordered prison sentences for officers and soldiers who were involved in such extrajudicial killings.

However, former presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Iván Duque Márquez have been avoiding apologizing since they reportedly do not find the war crimes committed by the military a big thing in comparison to the deeds of rebel groups.

Despite this, Gimena Sanchez, Colombia expert at nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America, believes an apology is important.

"This is incredibly important to the victim's families," she said. "Those family members had to deal with the stigma of supposedly being family members of guerrillas."

Colombia's military is responsible for at least 6,402 extrajudicial killings between 2002 and 2008, U.S. News reported, citing Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

Such a huge number of killings were reportedly carried out after commanders ordered troops to get better results on the battlefield, which then led to officers getting pressured to present fake numbers of enemy casualties.

Florinda Hernández, whose son Elkin Gustavo Hernández was killed by the military in 2008, attended the event and said, "Santos should be the one who shows his face here and asks for forgiveness."

"We don't want this to happen again, and we are still seeking justice for the murders of so many people," the mother added.

Former President Santos served his term from 2010 to 2018.

Elizabeth Dickinson, Colombia analyst at International Crisis Group, applauded the government's decision to apologize and said, "If we manage to get an agreement with any group what's going to be key to (sustain) that is the trust that the security forces have with the civilian population."

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