Colombian General Montoya indicted by JEP for 130 “false positives”

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Retired General and former head of the Army, Mario Montoya, during his indictment before JEP. Photo: JEP

In a historic decision by Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) retired General Mario Montoya, and eight soldiers, have been indicted for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity for their participation in “False Positives” during the early 2000s.

Retired General Montoya Uribe, who served as the commander of Brigade IV from 2002 to 2003, is a key military official who allegedly presented civilian casualties as combat deaths to meet body count quotas during the height of the internal conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla.

General Montoya told magistrate Catalina Díaz “that after 21-years, what I can recall is that many of the casualties were combatants of the Ninth Front of FARC and ELN.”

According to JEP, battalion commanders were ordered by Montoya Uribe to report casualties in terms of “liters,” “streams” and “rivers of blood.” The magistrates claim the high-ranking military officer was “relentless” in presenting “combat deaths” and offered soldiers incentives, rewards, or avoiding unfavorable transfers within army, to reach his quotas.

The indictment by JEP reveals the obligation military leaders imposed on their units to manipulate casualty numbers, and the dire consequences to innocent civilians. The crimes under investigation by JEP took place in eastern Antioquia and include the macabre manipulation of data to obscure the truth behind heinous acts that involved minors, and vulnerable youngsters.

As a result of General Montoya’s leadership and role as guarantor of individual rights, the commanders of Infantry Battalion No. 4 “Jorge Eduardo Sánchez” have been asked to acknowledge their contribution to creating the conditions that facilitated the False Positives. JEP asserts that these officers embedded the practice of falsifying casualties among their troops. The indictment also condemns how their influential positions “shaped a disturbing pattern of behavior that persisted during their tenure.”

General Montoya, and eight soldiers, are accused of 130 “False Positives” in Eastern Antioquia between 2002 and 2003. JEP has indicted 62 individuals for their role in the false positives scandal, and use of excessive force to achieve “operational results.” In the testimonies of JEP regarding the 130 extrajudicial killings, 53 civilians were killed in 2002, and 77 in 2003. Among the victims, 113 were men, 11 were children, five were women, and four were girls. Tragically, three of the victims had physical or mental disabilities.

According to this landmark Macro-Case 03, the members of the IV Brigade chose to strip the victims of any identifying features, making the task of locating their remains almost impossible. Despite efforts of the regular justice system to establish the identities of victims, 25 still remain unidentified. “The victims not only lost their lives, but in some cases also experienced physical and psychological pain in the moments leading up to their deaths,” states JEP.

The parallel justice system, established as part of the 2016 Peace Accord, will continue to investigate events in Antioquia between 2004 and 2006, and the alleged responsibility of General Montoya in other extrajudicial execution cases while he was Commander of the Caribbean Joint Command and National Army.

The tribunal has documented 6,402 cases of “false positives” nationwide, between 2002 and 2008. The crimes with which these officers are charged are categorized as War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Army commanders could face up to 20-years in prison.