BOGOTÁ, Colombia — New proof has emerged linking the embattled head of Colombia’s military to the alleged cover-up of civilian killings greater than a decade in the past.
The paperwork, supplied to The Related Press by an individual acquainted with an investigation into the extrajudicial killings, come as Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel faces mounting strain to resign over orders he gave troops this yr to step up assaults in what some concern may pave the way in which for a return to human rights abuses.
Colombia’s navy has been blamed for as many as 5,000 extrajudicial killings on the top of the nation’s armed battle within the mid-2000s as troops underneath strain from prime commanders inflated physique counts, in some circumstances dressing up civilians as guerrillas in change for further pay and perks.
What turned generally known as the “false positives” scandal has forged a darkish shadow over the American-backed navy’s document of battleground victories. Fifteen years later not a single prime commander has been held accountable.
Human Rights Watch in February harshly criticized President Ivan Duque’s appointment of Normal Martínez Espinel, noting that he was second-in-command of the 10th Brigade in northeast Colombia throughout years for which prosecutors have opened investigations into 23 unlawful killings. The rights group revealed that then-Col. Martínez Espinel licensed funds to an informant that led to “wonderful outcomes” in a purported fight operation wherein an indigenous civilian and 13-year-old woman have been killed. A court docket later convicted two troopers of abducting them from their house, murdering them and placing weapons on their our bodies so that they gave the impression to be rebels.
Normal Martínez Espinel mentioned on the time of the report that he had “no thought” if he had made the funds.
However new paperwork from Colombia’s prosecutor’s workplace present that Normal Martínez Espinel in 2005 signed off on at the very least seven different questionable funds. The paperwork have been supplied to the AP by somebody on the situation of anonymity as a result of they concern retaliation.
Among the rewards, which by no means exceeded $500, went to supposed informants whose names and IDs didn’t match. In two circumstances, judicial investigators discovered the true beneficiary was a soldier, Oscar Alfonso, who would go on to be sentenced to 40 years for his position in a 3rd, unrelated civilian killing. One hidden recipient was a former paramilitary commander sentenced to 15 years for extortion.
“A decade in the past, troopers throughout Colombia lured civilians to distant places underneath false pretenses — similar to with guarantees of labor — killed them, positioned weapons on their lifeless our bodies, after which reported them as enemy combatants killed in motion,” mentioned José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “One can’t assist surprise if any of the cockades of their uniforms, or the promotions all through ‘profitable’ careers, corresponds to the homicide of harmless civilians dedicated over a decade in the past.”
Normal Martínez Espinel mentioned in a press release that he has confronted no legal or disciplinary investigations. He mentioned that it was as much as judicial authorities to judge the paperwork bearing his signature however that in his time on the 10th Brigade he had no involvement in fight operations.
The New York Instances reported final week that Martínez Espinel had ordered troops this yr to double the variety of leftist guerrillas and criminals they killed, captured or pressured to give up in fight. The rules, made in writing at the beginning of Normal Martínez Espinel’s tenure as military chief in January, raised issues concerning the heightened threat of civilian causalities.
In response to the Instances’s article, the armed forces rolled again a part of the controversial coverage requiring discipline commanders to pledge in writing to double their operational outcomes in opposition to legal gangs and holdout rebels who’ve stuffed the void left by a 2016 peace take care of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
They left unchanged, nonetheless, orders instructing officers to not “demand perfection” from sources, saying assaults on navy targets needs to be launched when there’s a “60-70% credibility” concerning the veracity of knowledge.
On Friday, President Ivan Duque introduced the creation of a commisison to judge all navy orders and protocols to ensure they’re in accordance with human rights and worldwide humanitarian legislation.