World Bulletin / News Desk
A new report released Wednesday implicates active Colombian military generals and colonels in a widespread campaign of civilian murders between 2002 and 2008.
The 95-page Human Rights Watch report will have far reaching consequences within the rank-and-file of the Colombian Armed Forces and for ongoing peace talks in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The report focuses on what is referred to as “false positives” where soldiers lured homeless civilians and others in economically depressed situations from Bogota and other major cities with the promise of employment. They were taken to remote parts of Colombia and then killed and posed as guerrillas so as to increase the head count of rebel casualties.
“False positive killings amount to one of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent years, and there is mounting evidence that many senior army officers bear responsibility,” said José Miguel Vivanco, executive Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Yet the army officials in charge at the time of the killings have escaped justice and even ascended to the top of the military command, including the current heads of the army and armed forces.”
The report details more than 3,000 extra-judicial killings of this nature during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe and when current President Juan Manuel Santos was defence chief - when the military was under pressure to increase its tally of combat kills. More than 180 battalions and tactical units are believed to have been involved in the practice of “false positives” and are under investigation. Hundreds of lower-ranking soldiers have already been convicted, but those amounted to a handful of colonels and no generals.
Santos and new Minister for Defence Luis Carlos Villegas responded strongly to the HRW report.
“How come they think that they can stain this Institution?” Santos said in an address to soldiers Wednesday. “I heard this morning that an NGO was making claims but without a single supporting document,” he continued.
Villegas, who assumed his post Monday, said, “there may be some officials who will need to answer to the justice system but Colombia owes much more to the armed forces”.
The report prompted a response from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the bill that allowed aid to Colombia. “As we provided billions of dollars in aid to the Colombian army over many years, its troops systematically executed civilians. Worse yet, the officers who were in charge have escaped justice, and some remain in senior positions of authority,” he told El Tiempo newspaper.
Four retired generals on Tuesday received summonses from the Attorney General’s Office to appear at a hearing next month.Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Haziran 2015, 18:07