Spanish police have arrested a 40-year-old man in Madrid wanted in Colombia for allegedly performing forced abortions on female members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
Héctor Albeidis Arboleda Buitrago, known as El Médico (The doctor), was picked up on Sunday after Interpol issued an international warrant for his capture on charges of aggravated torture and carrying out abortions without consent.
Interpol issued an arrest warrant for his capture on charges of aggravated torture and carrying out abortions without consent
Arboleda Buitrago is alleged to have performed up to 500 forced abortions on female FARC members over a 15-year period. Some of the women were forced to undergo the procedure during their eighth month of pregnancy.
Colombian prosecutors opened a case against Arboleda Buitrago in 2008 after taking statements from former FARC members. A special squad was created to deal with the investigation.
Not all women who became pregnant while serving with the FARC consented to have abortions. According to Colombian prosecutors, who have based their investigation on sworn statements taken from former members, many women who refused to have their pregnancies terminated were murdered.
Arboleda Buitrago used their bodies for anatomical studies.
“We are far ahead in the investigation and hope these testimonies serve to corroborate all the charges,” said the chief investigator in the case.
Colombian prosecutors are also investigating whether the FARC high command collaborated in the forced abortions.
While authorities are certain that Arboleda Buitrago performed at least 150 forced abortions, Luis González León, who is in charge of the case, said the number could be as high as 500.
“We currently have statements from 39 victims, 150 proven cases, and a lot more on the way that could reach at least 500 illegal abortions,” González León said.
Among the victims are more than 50 underage girls whom “The Doctor” forced to give up their unborn infants “during the seventh and eighth months of their pregnancies,” said the Spanish National Police in a statement on Sunday.
Many of the women had been raped by other FARC members and were threatened to be taken before a firing squad if they did not agree to the abortions.
The investigation in Spain began about a month ago when Colombia alerted Spanish authorities that the former FARC medic may have fled to Madrid.
“He was quickly captured,” said González León.
According to the investigation, Arboleda Buitrago studied medicine in Cuba and joined the FARC to help it carry out its long-held internal policy that states female members must undergo abortions if they become pregnant while serving in the insurgent army.
“He performed his work around the Cafetero area [the west central region] and Chocó, the Colombian Pacific, where he would force women – the majority of them indigenous and underage – to abort,” the investigator said.
Arboleda Buitrago faces 40 years in prison if convicted of murder, cruel and inhumane acts, torture, conspiracy, forced recruitment and sexual abuse.
Spain is waiting for more information from Colombia to begin extradition proceedings. It is believed that El Médico entered the country illegally.
English version by Martin Delfin.