Mid-level commanders, soldiers and documentary evidence have confirmed a New York Times story that reported that Colombia’s army chief put pressure on troops to double the number of kills and captures, disregarding possible civilian deaths.
A report by RCN Radio talked to anonymous soldiers and mid-level commanders who all confirmed the controversial orders from top military commanders, adding that they did not even have to engage in combat to justify reported kills.
We don’t determine if he is a paramilitary or a FARC dissident, what we determine is whether he has a weapon or not; if the man has a weapon and he shows it, we can kill him.
They confirmed that vacations and other perks became an incentive to produce “results” in the form of kills or captures after the order of army chief Nicacio Martinez ordered to double the army’s result.
Statistics of the defense ministry show that the number of combat kills rose 33% and captures a staggering 52% in the first quarter of the year, compared to the first quarter of the year.
Back to war: Colombia’s military reports 33% increase in combat kills, 52% increase in captured combatants
The demanded results and promised incentives show a chilling similarity to conditions at the beginning of the century when soldiers ended up executing thousands of civilians to inflate the army’s success in what euphemistically became known as the “false positives” scandal.
Producing casualties is the highest value result a soldier can produce and is a primary determinant in commanders’ decision to grant soldiers vacations or leave during holidays, according to the anonymous soldier that talked to RCN Radio.
“The casualties are important and we don’t get any money or anything like that, because the incentive for us is vacations… Unit commanders are measured by results because they say ‘this lieutenant is good, that lieutenant has taken so many casualties and that lieutenant has taken so many captures.”
One soldier compared the situation in small units to a competition to produce the most casualties and win the prize of vacations in the prized month of December.
The initial report of the New York Times received fierce reprisals by the country’s ruling far-right Democratic Center (CD) party, which spurred the reporter and photographer to leave the country amid fear of repercussions of radicalized supporters of party leader and former President Alvaro Uribe.
CD Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal echoed US President Donald Trump on Monday, calling the New York Times “the king of fake news.”
Caracol Radio published documents cited in the NYT story, showing the order to “not demand perfection to execute operations,” and to “execute operations with 60-70% accuracy,” which top military officials said increased the risk of civilian deaths.
The Defense Ministry said over the weekend that it had asked the country’s prosecution to investigate if the orders of Martinez, who already is linked to the murder of 23 civilians, were in violation of international humanitarian law or human rights.
Colombia to investigate army chief over order to increase combat kills, despite possible civilian deaths
Despite protest over his alleged involvement in the execution of civilians, including one 13-year-old girl who was murdered and presented as a guerrilla killed in combat, President Ivan Duque promoted Martinez to become army chief in December.