Several high-ranking military officials who are being considered for promotions have been accused by the leftist opposition of being involved in homicides and extrajudicial executions, according to local media.
In the first stage of their candidacy, a Senate commission voted Thursday to approve the promotion of 34 military officials, with Senator Ivan Cepeda (Democratic Pole) being the only lawmaker who refused to vote, according to W Radio. Another vote will be held in two weeks.
During the debate, Cepeda denounced the fact that he was he only senator who did not receive the resumes of the officials before the vote. He claimed that through his own investigations, he found that at least five of the candidates had questionable backgrounds.
“We have three cases of officials in whose brigades occurred an unusual and unexplained proliferation of extrajudicial executions which could be ‘false positives‘,” Cepeda said.
Two are also tied to homicide investigations, according to the senator.
The senator was referring to Colombia’s so-called “false positives” scandal, centered around the extrajudicial killings of thousands of civilians by members of the armed forces who dressed their victims as guerrillas in order to present them as combat kills.
FACT SHEET: False Positives
Cepeda added that “experience shows that the way promotions are carried out, decisions have been made lightly and have had serious consequences,” emphasizing that “the procedure requires a background exam that is transparent and rigorous.”
The senate commission comes just weeks after Cepeda’s colleague, Senator Alirio Uribe (Democratic Pole), presented a list of eight current generals who are allegedly tied to false positives cases.
Nominated from the top
After studying the background of each officer, the military officials were nominated for promotion by President Juan Manuel Santos and Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon. The senators in the commission also carried out similar investigations this week, interviewing generals and examining their relevant documents, according to Semana magazine.
Apart from Cepeda, the senators supported the promotion of the military officers. Thania Vega, of ex-President Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Center party, praised the army officials, claiming that opposing their promotion was “to go against their right to a good name,” according to newspaper El Colombiano.
“The 33 men and one woman have been in the military for more than 25 years. They entered while young and have passed many filters in their lives. They are prepared to give up their lives for the country, and have already all types of exams and tests,” Vega said.
Each military official’s resume was assigned to a specific senator from various political parties. All were supportive of the candidates.
According to inquiries made by the online version of Semana magazine, neither the Prosecutor General’s Office nor the Investigator General’s Office registered any investigations against the generals.
Officers cited by Cepeda
Brigadier General Nicacio de Jesus Martinez – candidate for Major General
Martinez is the current commander of the 5th Division. He commanded the 10th Brigade from 2004-2006 the states of Cesar and la Guajira and is reported to have had between 72 and 100 false positive cases occur under his jurisdiction.
Brigadier General Jorge Alberto Eduardo Segura Manonegra – candidate for Major General
While commanding the 14th Brigade in Antioquia, false positive cases occurred in the municipalities of Remedios and Segovia, according to Cepeda.
Coronel Raul Antonio Rodriguez Arevalo – candidate for Brigadier General
While commanding the Artillery Battalion No. 2 of La Popa, between June 2005 and December 2006, “acts connected to extrajudicial executions” occurred in the municipalities of Codazzi and Manaure in the state of Cesar and in San Juan del Cesar in the state of La Guajira.
Brigadier General Emilio Enrique Torres Ariza – candidate for Major General
Under his command as Chief of Staff of the 16th Brigade, false positive cases occurred in Aguazul, Trinidad, and Monterrey in the state of Casanare. He is also being investigated in a homicide case, according to Cepeda.
Brigadier General Gabriel Hernando Pinilla Franco – candidate for Major General
He is currently tied to a preliminary homicide investigation “for acts which occured in 1995 in Fortul (Arauca [state]).”
Prosecuting state agents tied to false positives
Official investigations of officers commanding brigades which are implicated in false positives cases is not common. The overwhelming majority of those convicted in these cases – 742 as of this year – are soldiers.
A total of 4,212 victims of extrajudicial killings by the military have so far been identified by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Of the nearly 5,000 state agents implicated in the crimes, 742 have been convicted, almost all from the army. More than 200 are officers rankings from corporal to colonel, and more then 500 soldiers.
- El pasado de cinco generales candidatos al ascenso (Semana)
- Senado ascendió a cinco militares acusados de violaciones a derechos humanos (W Radio)
- Polemica por ascenso de cinco oficiales (El Colombiano)
- Representante Alirio Uribe presenta lista de 9 generales de las brigadas con más falsos positivos (Democratic Pole)