Filmmakers: Juan Jose Lozano and Hollman Morris

In 2005, Colombia started gathering evidence of violence being carried out by paramilitaries.

A controversial justice and peace process was set up to allow paramilitary leaders to give themselves up in exchange for reduced sentences.


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"Of course, there were mistakes, accidents. That's to be expected in such a long war. The ones we buried were peasants. People are buried in the fields. It's very sad, of course. We'd have preferrred not to do it, but fate led us there," Commander Hernan Giraldo said in a confession hearing.

"I'm a peasant too. I'm like them. I was forced to make that decision. The guerrillas cornered us in that area, which led to a war. Obviously, a lot of innocent people died. Children died, as we heard yesterday. That's a shame but they're dead. And no amount of talking will bring them back. We're confessing to what we did. That's why we're here," he added.

This film documents the hearings in which they describe atrocities they committed, as the victims' families watch on projected screens. Through these testimonies and interviews with victims, the history of paramilitary violence comes to light.

But with irregularities in the justice and peace process, the families are afraid that they will never know the truth.

In an era where many countries are tempted to sacrifice justice in the name of 'peace', what happens in Colombia will resonate beyond its borders.

This Witness film finds out if Colombia's groundbreaking peace and justice process can bring closure to families whose loved ones were killed by paramilitaries.

"They were playing in the guava trees by the river. My little brother was on one of the highest branches. They saw some men coming down the river. The men were armed. The boys all jumped down. By the time my brother hit the ground, the men were there. They grabbed him. They cut his head right off. So we found him," recalls the sister of a 12-year-old victim.

"I couldn't leave him there. I lifted his body, my mother carried his head. We laid him on his bed. We washed his face. An hour later, the army and the police arrived [and] they took his body away. All I want to say is ... I don't know how anyone, under any circumstances, could do that. They don't just kill a person, but an entire family. It's a lot of things. No matter how much psychotherapy you undergo, you never get over it," she says.

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Source: Al Jazeera