Two Colombian generals under investigation over civilian killings

Prosecutors to bring homicide charges against General Henry Torres and former army commander Mario Montoya in so-called 'false positives' case

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

A file photo of former army commander Mario Montaya.

Colombian prosecutors will bring homicide charges against one active general and one retired general for their alleged role in the murders of civilians who were later presented as rebels killed in combat.

The military has been under fire for years over accusations of killing thousands of civilians, mostly poor young men, from 2002 to 2008 and reporting them as The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels or drug traffickers.

The extrajudicial killings artificially increased the “success” of the army operations against rebel groups, earned promotions, decorations and perks for those who took credit.

However prosecutors will now bring homicide charges against General Henry Torres and former army commander Mario Montaya in the so-called “false positives” case.

Both of the generals face up to 40 years in prison and 22 generals are under investigation in total.

Henry Torres, the first active-duty general detained in the case, was arrested on Monday and is being held at a military base in the capital of Colombia.

The army high command stood by Torres but promised to “continue supporting and providing all information requested by the authorities.”

The FARC and the government are closing in on a peace accord after three years of negotiations in Colombia, which is the scene of a half-century guerrilla war that has killed more than 260,000 people.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch warned that a deal risked sweeping the “false positives” atrocities under the rug.

Montoya is known in Colombia for leading two high-profile operations, one that freed 15 hostages including politician Ingrid Betancourt and another that killed the FARC's second-in-command, Raul Reyes.

Montoya served as commander of the army during the administration of former far-right president Alvaro Uribe.

Montoya pursued a heavy-handed policy toward Colombia’s Marxist rebels and stepped down in 2008, after 11 young civilians who went missing outside the capital Bogota were presented as rebels killed in clashes.

Prosecutors accuse him of pressuring subordinates to fudge their combat figures and failing to prevent civilian killings.

Torres was accused of involvement in the murder of a father and son in 2007, when he was a brigade commander.

Human Rights Watch says more than 4,000 civilian deaths were presented as insurgents killed in combats.

TRTWorld and agencies