Canadian made engines in Colombian air force trainer aircraft arrive weeks after airstrike that killed 16-year-old girl

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Photo from El Tiempo.

On March 2 of this year, the Colombian Air Force conducted an airstrike in the eastern Guaviare province that targeted FARC dissidents.

Twelve people were killed in that airstrike, including a 16-year-old girl.

The Guardian reports: “At least one child – Danna Lizeth Montilla, 16 – is known to have perished in the strike. Her father, Jhon Albert Montilla [said] she had been staying with family in the rural region and may have been forcibly recruited by the rebels.”

That article adds: “After reports that several minors were among the dead left by the bombing raid, [Colombia’s defence minister] Diego Molano said that any young victims were ‘machines of war’ who had been indoctrinated by the guerrillas.”

Molano said: “It’s not like they were studying for their school exams.”

The Defence Minister also told RCN Radio that minors “cease to be victims when they commit crimes … unfortunately, they become criminals.”

Violation of humanitarian law

In response, lawyer Olga Silva of Humanidad Vigente has stated that it would be a “serious violation” of international humanitarian law if the military knew children were at the camp before the airstrike happened.

UNICEF Colombia says: “According to national and international standards, children and adolescents recruited are victims and their rights must prevail.”

Bogotá city councillor Heidy Sánchez tweeted: “The state should reach the regions in order to guarantee housing, food, health and education, [But] in Colombia it arrives to drop bombs. Who are the machines of war?”

And Adam Isacson of WOLA commented: “Molano [has] portrayed these children as expendable killers who deserved what they got. That kind of dehumanising language stripped Molano himself of his humanity, and it’s an absolutely terrible message to send to an armed forces with a difficult history of human rights abuse.”

Canadian exports to Colombian air force

Just weeks after the death of the 16-year-old girl, two Beechcraft T-6C Texan II turboprop trainer aircraft were delivered to the Colombian Air Force on May 8 and May 13.

They were formally inducted into service on July 11.

Key.Aero reports: “Various high-ranking officials were present for the event, including Colombia’s Minister of National Defense, Diego Molano Aponte.”

Kelsey Gallagher, a Canadian military exports researcher with Project Ploughshares, has tweeted the aircraft are “powered by Québec-made P&WC PT6 engines.”

Pratt & Whitney Canada is based in Longueuil, near Montreal.

International Observation Mission recommendations

Earlier this week, the International Observation Mission for the Guarantees of Social Protest and Against Impunity in Colombia recommended (4.1) the suspension of the sale of military weapons to Colombia (citing the EU Coe of Conduct on arms exports), (4.3) suspending free trade agreements with Colombia (citing the clauses in case of violations of rights), and (5.1) that companies that trade with Colombia implement due diligence imperatives.

El Tiempo reports: “[Danna’s father says] they are looking for legal mechanisms that allow them to report the case nationally and internationally.”

Earlier this week Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau spoke with Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez, but it does not appear that the death of 16-year-old Danna Lizeth Montilla was mentioned.

Colombia solidarity rally on Parliament Hill, May 28.

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