Oct. 13 (UPI) — Two boys believed to be from Venezuela were shot dead in a Colombian town after a shopkeeper accused them of shoplifting, officials said.
The boys, ages 18 and 12, were apprehended by bystanders Friday after they were accused of trying to steal from a clothing store in the small town of Tibu, near the Colombia-Venezuela border. Security footage showed the boys being taken away by two armed men on motorbikes.
The bodies of both boys were found hours later alongside a road near the edge of the city. One boy had a handwritten sign on him that read “thief.”
The United Nations Human Rights Office in Colombia condemned the deaths on Sunday.
“We express our condolences to his family,” the office said, according to Colombia Reports. “We urge the authorities to investigate these events. We call for respect for the life and protection of children.”
Regional Police Chief Col. Carlos Martinez blamed three local men for involvement in the boys’ deaths.
“[They took] justice in their own hands,” Martinez said. “That’s what the authorities are for.”
Wilfredo Canizares, of the regional human rights group Fundacion Progresar, said it appears a local armed militia is setting its own laws in a town it wants to control.
“Each armed group in Tibu imposes control using violence, and the first people that always suffer their weapons are those with social issues, criminal records, drug problems or those working in prostitution,” Canizares said, according to The Guardian. “This is the third case we’ve reported in which people are effectively being lynched.”