The hour of truth: Colombia’s former army chief called to trial over systematic killing of civilians

Colombia’s former National Army commander General Mario Montoya, an alleged mastermind of the mass murder of civilians to fake military successes, has been called to trial.

Montoya’s first day at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) may be a breaking point in the investigation of thousands of  executions  of civilians who were falsely presented as combat kills.

Former President Alvaro Uribe considers the retired general a national hero, but things are looking  bleak for Montoya. who has been linked to more homicides than “Timochenko,” a certified former terrorist.

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Montoya’s innocence claim contradicted by 11 witnesses

Former President Alvaro Uribe decorating Montoya

The former army chief has always denied any responsibility in one of the worst war crimes in the history of the armed conflict and has said he expected to be able to prove his innocence.

But Montoya’s innocence claim is contradicted by evidence and the testimonies of 11 of his former subordinates, according to the JEP.

The court wants the former general to appear on February 12 to clarify his role in the “false positives” that spiked under his command.

According to the court, Montoya “may admit the truth and responsibility, or deny the facts or claim that they are unrelated to the conflict.”

However, if the former army chief is caught lying or trying to conceal even a portion of the truth he may be expelled from the transitional justice court and face a 40-year prison sentence.

How Colombia’s former army chief is drowning in his own buckets of blood

A career based on mass murder?

Montoya allegedly has been linked to the killings of civilians to inflate his military prowess since 1994, according to Human Rights Watch. Every time the retired general was promoted, accusations of “false positives” under his watch increased..

In February 2006, Montoya took over as commander of the National Army, and that year saw a marked increase in false positives throughout the Army. According to the report that the Prosecutor’s Office submitted to the JEP, in 2006, the number of cases throughout the Army nearly doubled from the previous year: there were at least 470 alleged cases of false positives. The numbers increased significantly again in 2007, when they reached 733 cases.

Human Rights Watch

According to one of Montoya’s subordinates, the former general “always talked about litres of blood.” Another witness said Montoya demanded “buckets of blood.”

“I don’t care about captures, what you have to give me is combat kills,” the second witness quoted the the former general as saying.

As the court said, Montoya can persist in not having committed any war crimes, but with the mounting evidence and testimonies he may change his mind or risk disappearing behind bars for the rest of his life.

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