Mario Montoya was chief of the Colombian Army between 2006 and 2008.
General Mario Montoya, who was commander of the Colombian Army in the years when most false positives occurred, the euphemism for extrajudicial executions of civilians by military forces, played a key role in more than a hundred of these murders, said the prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa. "We are going to impute him as the determiner for aggravated homicide in a simultaneous homogeneous contest of 104 of the so-called false positives or extrajudicial executions in Colombia, among which there are five minors," Barbosa announced to
The news was a desperate request from the victims and comes days after the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional justice court that emerged from the peace accords, indicted 15 other military personnel for 127 murders of civilians presented as' false positives'. The Barbosa Prosecutor's Office had been criticized for not advancing with the investigations into extrajudicial executions that had been in the ordinary courts for years. With the decision on the former head of the Army, Barbosa seeks to remove that image of impunity.
The prosecutor added that there will be other charges against members of the Army, including generals.
The investigation against Montoya, commander during Álvaro Uribe's second government, indicates that the general ignored an order from the commander of the Military Forces to privilege the captures and demobilizations of guerrillas.
It was 2007 and there were already reports of murders of civilians at the hands of soldiers.
Despite this, throughout 2008, Montoya went to military brigades promoting a "policy of awards" to those officers who presented the most deaths, compared them in a
and pressed to privilege combat casualties.
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The Colombian Peace Tribunal raises the number of 'false positives' under the Uribe government to more than 6,400
The victims were then presented as operational results and served the narrative that the government was winning the war against the FARC guerrillas.
But these were civilians who the soldiers disguised as combatants.
“In the proceedings of many of these crimes, people appeared dressed where not even the bullet wounds crossed their clothes.
We found victims in those files who had two right shoes or two left shoes on their feet, ”Barbosa said.
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These complaints were an open secret since that time, but it was only after the peace agreement between the government and the FARC that their dimension began to be known.
The JEP or Peace Tribunal, the body in charge of judging the most serious crimes of the Colombian armed conflict, raised the number of "false positives" under the Uribe government to 6,402.
For years, the Prosecutor's Office reported 2,248 cases between 2002 and 2008.
Nearly 1,950 members of the public force have appeared before the JEP, including soldiers and generals, such as Mario Montoya.
They have accepted this Court, which grants them legal benefits such as conditional freedom if they provide information that helps to clarify the crimes.
In one of his appearances before that court, the former army chief did not accept his responsibility and suggested that the false positives occurred by wayward and poorly educated soldiers. “The boys who go to the Army are those from below, those from stratum one, strata two, three and four do not go. We have to teach them how to use the bathroom, how to use cutlery, ”Montoya said at the time. His words offended the victims who demanded that he be excluded from the JEP for not contributing to the truth.
The relatives of young people presented as guerrillas also filed a tutela action against the Office of the Prosecutor delegated to the Supreme Court of Justice to advance the investigations of a case in which Montoya has been accused since 2016. Because the general submitted to the JEP and although that does not prevent the ordinary investigation from continuing, the Prosecutor's Office has refrained from depriving him of his liberty.
The decision to impute the former army chief has been celebrated as an achievement of the victims. "This is an important step for the victims' right to truth," said José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas (HRW). However, he pointed out the slowness of ordinary justice. “It is a pity that this decision only happened now. Due to the competence of the JEP, the legal relevance of this accusation today is mostly symbolic. For years, HRW has published several reports that show that the Prosecutor's Office had evidence against Montoya, "he added.
Lawyers for victims of false positives also see it as a triumph although they receive it with caution.
This confirms the importance of the complementarity of the two jurisdictions, the ordinary and the transitional, explained Sebastián Escobar, defender of the relatives.
“Those who come to the JEP with more advanced investigations show a vocation to contribute to the truth.
We hope that this will happen now and Montoya will appear at the JEP, not in that vein of presenting himself as a hero of the homeland but of acknowledging that crimes were presented and admitting the truth as responsibility.
This is a message that there is no one above justice ”, says the lawyer.
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