The United Nations expressed its support for Human Rights Watch on Thursday, calling on the Colombian government “not to shoot the messenger” denouncing impunity in the military killings of thousands of civilians.
UN representative Fabrizio Hochschild spoke to Blu Radio, highlighting the reputation of the NGO and claiming that the cases in discussion deserve more research and reflection in Colombia.
HRW released a report on Wednesday in which it revealed evidence that the commanders of the Armed Forces and the National Army “knew or should have known” about dozens of killings committed by members of brigades the military executives commanded at the time.
President Juan Manuel Santos publicly rejected the report, telling the human rights organization to “not tarnish our institutions.”
In response, Hochschild told Santos that “this is not the time to shoot the messenger, but to strengthen national efforts to get to the bottom of this dark episode in the history of the country”.
For years, particularly under the presidency of former President Alvaro Uribe and most prevalently when Santos was defense minister, the Colombian army executed approximately 4,500 civilians, dressed them up as guerrillas and presented them as combat kills in what in Colombia euphemistically is called the “false positives” scandal.
Colombia’s President Santos initially rejected the report, publicly bashing it at in a speech at a military battalion on Wednesday. “Don’t you come and tarnish this institution,” Santos said promising to defend the “legitimacy” and “reputation” of Armed Forces commander General Juan Pablo Rodriguez and National Army commander Jaime Lasprilla.
He then — away from the cameras — met with the HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco who said Santos was being “very receptive” when given more details about the report.
The US government claimed on Thursday that Colombia’s armed forces have continued killing these alleged ‘false positive’ scandals throughout 2014.
In its annual report on global human rights, the US State Department said that Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office had registered “32 new cases of alleged aggravated homicides by agents of the state” while investigations against alleged military killers “proceeded, albeit slowly.”
The Colombian military is held responsible for killing 4,475 civilians, according to the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office. More than 5,000 state officials, mainly from the National Army, have been implicated in these killings.