Francisco Barbosa, the Attorney General of Colombia, announced the indictment of retired Army General Mario Montoya for his alleged responsibility in a hundred extrajudicial executions, known as “false positives.” Barbosa thus puts pressure on the ex-military to testify either before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which would lower his sentence; or before the ordinary justice.
The retired Colombian Army General Mario Montoya will be charged by the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office for his alleged involvement in the ‘false positives’, as the extrajudicial killings of civilians at the hands of the military forces are popularly known during the bloodiest time of the armed conflict. .
A period in which the military, during a time under the responsibility of the 72-year-old Montoya, made these people, mostly low-income youths, pass as guerrillas and thus justify a greater number of combat casualties, alleging a victory in the war against the ex-guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP).
More than 104 extrajudicial killings under his command
As revealed by the nation’s attorney general, Francisco Barbosa, to the Colombian magazine ‘Semana’, Montoya will be indicted for the important role he would have played in those murders. “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,” he said, adding that in those cases there were ” heterogeneous competition with concealment, alteration or destruction of material evidence ”.
With this announcement, Barbosa seeks to clean the image of the Colombian ordinary justice, accused of prolonging the investigative processes and favoring impunity in these cases of extrajudicial killings. “The investigations will be in the hands of the JEP and General Montoya will have the opportunity to accept the charges and the facts, tell the truth or continue to maintain that he is innocent. If he does, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, if he pleads guilty he would have an alternative sentence ”, explained Barbosa.
In Colombia, the number of ‘false positives’ is 6,402 people, according to the latest data from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional justice body created during the 2016 peace accords. However, the families of victims and organizations such as “The mothers of Soacha”, denounce that the number is much higher.
Pressure from the Prosecutor’s Office for Montoya to testify before the JEP
With the emergence of the JEP, the Prosecutor’s Office lost jurisdiction over crimes committed in the context of the armed conflict, so it could not impute the alleged perpetrators, especially if they availed themselves of the special jurisdiction as part of what was agreed during the peace dialogues. In fact, Montoya joined this body in October 2018.
Now, this legal mess was solved after a new agreement between the Prosecutor’s Office and the JEP, according to Barbosa, so that the ordinary justice could now impute it. Some analysts suggest that this fact could be a kind of warning and additional pressure – now from the Prosecutor’s Office – for Montoya to testify with the truth of these crimes. If you deliver a comprehensive truth to the court of the peace, you could run for a penalty that would not result in you being behind bars.
Despite being within the JEP and having promised to tell the truth of these crimes, so far Montoya has not revealed key information about the ‘false positives’ to the judges and rather, his only statement was involved in controversy after pointing out as perpetrators of these deaths to “soldiers of low social stratum.”
“It pains me to say it, but the boys who go to the Army are those from below, from stratum one, stratum two, three and four are no longer going (…) we have to teach them how to use the bathroom, how to use cutlery, that it is quality ”, said the former general in his appearance in February 2020. The families of the victims denounced that his appearance was“ a mockery ”, demanding his removal from the JEP and requesting that he be tried in an ordinary way for non-compliance with contributions to the true.
We would love to be there at that moment face to face, Justice limps but arrives. Attention: General Mario Montoya will be charged with false positives, prosecutor Barbosa says he was responsible for 104 homicides https://t.co/BijFbtAMeA
– False Positive Mothers of Colombia (@MAFAPOCOLOMBIA) July 31, 2021
Highest rank in Army charged with ‘false positives’
Former Commander Montoya was in the Army for 39 years, occupying the highest rank from 2006 to 2008, in the second term of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, investigated for a dozen crimes; many related to human rights violations. The former ultra-rightist leader has described the military man as “a hero of the country” and “one of the best generals the Republic has had.”
“Mario Montoya was commander of the Army in the 11 months -September 2007 to August 2008- in which Uribe went mad thinking that there was a great international conspiracy against him and he launched into the most brutal and audacious decisions. False positives are part of it. of that, “León Valencia, director of the NGO Fundación Paz y Reconcilitación, wrote on Twitter.
Between November 2007 and the same month in 2008, the 104 murders of which he is accused were allegedly produced. Montoya would have operated in breach of a directive of the Military Forces that ordered “to privilege collective and individual demobilizations over arrests, and these over deaths in combat,” as the prosecutor Barbosa himself explained.
According to the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, Montoya “communicated the guidelines of the Ministry of Defense and the General Command of the Military Forces to the Army units, but did not apply them,” for which reason he continued evaluating and rewarding the commanders for the number of reported deaths in combat.
“Consciously, General Montoya disobeyed the order of the General Commander of the Military Forces in Directive 300-28, the purpose of which was to prevent new complaints of extrajudicial executions. After the aforementioned instruction, internal and external alerts on civilian deaths continued. in combat, “says EFE on the information given by the magistrate.
Barbosa also said that all the perpetrators were active members of the Army and that “none of the victims actually died in combat.” Dozens of high-ranking Army and other military officers have been arrested and convicted for their participation in the extrajudicial killings, many brought to justice of the peace with the aim of obtaining lighter penalties than those they would obtain in ordinary courts.
Montoya, according to Barbosa, would be accused of multiple cases of aggravated homicide, something that the former general – who remains at large – has always denied.
I welcome the announcement of @FiscaliaCol on the accusation of Gen. Mario Montoya, former commander of the Colombian Army, for his alleged role in extrajudicial executions known as “false positives”.
This is an important step for the victims’ right to the truth.
– José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) July 31, 2021
Although the families of the victims have welcomed the news as an approach to justice and truth, for many it comes late and is a merely metaphorical gesture. The director of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, celebrated this step, but regretted that “this decision has only just 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. “
With EFE and local media