Aug 7, 2021 - World

Colombia takes action on extrajudicial killings

A  protest in 2018 outside an army barracks accusing Colombian army Gen. Mario Montoya of covering up more than 100 extrajudicial killings
A protest in 2018 outside an army barracks accusing Colombian army Gen. Mario Montoya of covering up more than 100 extrajudicial killings. Photo: Joaquín Sarmiento/AFP via Getty Images

The former commander of the Colombian army will be charged with murder this week, per prosecutors, making him the highest-ranking military officer to face a possible prison sentence over extrajudicial killings.

Details: U.S.-trained Gen. Mario Montoya is accused of overseeing 104 cases in which civilians, five of them children, were kidnapped, killed and disguised as “guerrilla casualties” by armed forces between 2007 and 2008.

  • Montoya was already under investigation by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a transitional justice court for reparations that offers lower prison times if the accused pleads guilty.
  • The special court charged 26 lower-ranking soldiers in July with an additional 227 cases of extrajudicial killings.

Context: Over 6,400 Colombians were killed and passed off as rebel fighters in what’s known as the “false positives” scandal, per initial findings from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

  • Between 2002 and 2008, those civilians were murdered by soldiers or allied paramilitary forces as part of a “large-scale criminal organization within military units.”
  • The bodies were recorded as “combat casualties” to fill a quota in the government’s fight against armed guerrillas.
  • Documents show that as recently as 2019 soldiers were still being rewarded with bonuses, vacation time or promotions for fulfilling similar quotas.
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