By Santiago Luque Pérez, CAMBIOColombia, August 29, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace has charged several members of the military, including General Mario Montoya, for cases of false positives in Antioquia. The retired general is accused of being responsible for 130 extrajudicial killings. Here are the details of the charging decision.
This Wednesday the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) announced that it had charged retired General Mario Montoya with false positives in Antioquia. A total of nine members of the military have been accused of being the most responsible for the crimes.
According to the JEP, the Fourth Brigade, headquartered in Medellin, exerted pressure for “results”, and entrenched a message that presenting “combat kills” was the only measure of success, to be able to obtain incentives and rewards and not be transferred or mustered out of the military.
This pressure, which led the soldiers to present extrajudicial executions, was exercised by the Commander of the Brigade between 2003 and 2004, General Mario Montoya Uribe.
He had also commanded various battalions, especially Jorge Eduardo Sánchez Infantry No. 4 (BAJES), where 80% of the false positive cases in Antioquia were concentrated.
The JEP Tribunal stated that the retired general repeatedly demanded “liters”, “streams”, “rivers”, “barrels”, or “tank cars” full of blood. He used radio programs to impose these pressures.
After being notified, the nine officers charged have 30 business days to admit or deny the facts and their responsibilities. At the end of that period, if there are admissions, the JEP will set a date for Public Hearing of Admissions of the Truth.
If the officers deny their responsibility, the case will be referred to the Unit for Investigation and Accusation (UIA) of the JEP. The UIA will conduct an adversarial proceeding.
The soldiers’ testimonies on the false positives.
Several members of the Colombian Army have detailed the ways General Montoya pressured them to commit extrajudicial executions.
“General Montoya told us that he didn’t want captures, that he wanted “combat kills”, and that he would look at that in judging how we were doing, because we have to give him “combat kills”. In fact, in the Battalion, at the BAJES entrance, there was a chart that counted the “kills” we had carried out in the whole year, and there was a competition,” stated 2d Lieutenant Pilides José Torres at a closed hearing that was published by the JEP.
The name Mario Montoya was heard in several of the testimonies on the false positives. That happened in the hearing the JEP held at Dabeiba, when retired Sergeant Fidel Ochoa testified, “This General (Mario Montoya) went on radio programs to tell us –I don’t need liters of blood. I need tank cars of blood—”
The soldier added that he was pressured by his superiors to up the number of “kills”, and that that increased when retired General Mario Montoya was promoted to head the Seventh Division.
Two reports furnished by the Attorney General’s Office and three from victims’ organizations mention Montoya in connection with these activities.
This is the fourth charge filed against members of the Colombian Army for these activities. Sixty-two members of the military are accused of these crimes. The subcases that have reached this stage are Catatumbo, Caribbean Coast, and Dabeiba.
The details of the charges against General Montoya and the
eight other members of the military
These murders and forced disappearances were catalogued as crimes against humanity. According to the JEP, there were three patterns.
- The victims were dragged out of their homes or their work, or they were intercepted in public transportation or on public roads. Then they were accused of being guerrillas, militants, or of aiding the guerrillas.
- Persons that were socioeconomically vulnerable were deceived and transported to the place where they were to be killed and presented as killed in combat by members of the Armed Forces.
- The murder and forced disappearance of persons protected by International Human Rights Law and who were not part of the combat.
The members of the military were charged as maximally responsible because of their position of leadership and their obligation to guarantee the rights of the people.
In the case of retired General Mario Montoya, the JEP determined that he had lied about the number of “kills”, covered up cases of excessive use of force, and pressured members of military units under his command to obtain “combat kills”. He employed violent language and exalted the shedding of blood, and he ordered his subordinates not to come to him reporting captures, because he considered those to be an unacceptable “result”.
One of the cases was his presentation of two girls and three teenagers, civilians, as FARC guerrillas at a press conference. Actually they had been killed in the military ambush of a vehicle being driven by two paramilitaries on March 9, 2002, in San Rafael in Antioquia Department.
The children had asked the paramilitaries for a ride to a party in a nearby town. In spite of the fact that the commander of the operation reported that they were civilians, General Montoya insisted on presenting the corpses of the children as guerrillas killed in combat.
Erika Castañeda’s mother recalled, in the JEP’s public hearing, that when General Montoya was bringing the corpses in a truck, she had screamed out, “It will take you a lifetime and more before you are able to prove that my daughter was a guerrilla.”