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Senator Leahy Denounces Potential Return to Extrajudicial Killings in Colombia

Updated: May 22, 2019

This article was originally published by El TIEMPO in Spanish and was translated by the Colombia Team.

Photo: El TIEMPO

US Senator Patrick Leahy asked the government of Ivan Duque to demand "proof" from Congresswoman María Fernanda Cabal for suggesting that someone paid the newspaper 'The New York Times' to publish a controversial article about new guidelines in the army that could lead to extrajudicial executions.

Through his Twitter account, the senator, who occupies the highest rank of the Democratic party Appropriations Committee, said on Monday night that if Cabal does not provide proof of her accusations, the government should "denounce it in public".

The United States must firmly condemn the alleged use of practices in the Colombian Armed Forces that would be putting civilians at risk and leading to the extrajudicial execution of people, as the the New York Times reported.

That's what Senator Leahy, who usually determines the aid that is given to the country every year, told El TIEMPO.

The Senator, in fact, emphasized that there is a law (the Leahy Law) that prohibits the United States from giving support to any unit or member of the armed forces that are involved in this type of behavior.

"In the past, the army violated the laws of war repeatedly by killing civilians to raise the count of casualties without punishing those who ordered and allowed this practice. General (Nicacio) Martinez has been implicated and now the Army wants to reaffirm the use of these tactics must be condemned very firmly by the US ", says the senator after noting that this is a strategy that has only tainted the reputation of the Army.

In his new statements to El TIEMPO newspaper, Leahy also says he is very aware that the country faces serious threats from armed groups that are fighting for control of drug trafficking.

The article in the 'Times', which was published this Saturday, claims that General Martinez, who is the head of the Colombian Army, has been promoting a new strategy that seeks to double the number of criminals and guerrillas killed or captured. and that it would be more tolerant of civilian casualties in order to favor victories on the battlefield.

According to Nick Casey, author of the article, that strategy is outlined in documents he obtained and testimonies of at least three army officers, who he does not identify.

According to the information obtained, there is fear within the armed forces that this pressure to have better results will be translated into a return of the "false positives", a brutal practice that was discovered last decade and that consisted of assassinating civilians to then present them as criminals killed in combat and obtain perks and other benefits offered by the Army.

Both the Ministry of Defense and General Martinez say that the journalist took the documents out of context and that it is not true that there is a policy that promotes casualties or the indiscriminate use of force when there are civilians involved.

President Iván Duque, on the other hand, has said that violations of Human Rights by the public force will not be tolerated.

Casey, who was in Colombia, had to leave the country this weekend because of threats to his safety.

In his statement to EL TIEMPO, Leahy refers to a report from February of this year in which the organization Human Rights Watch argues that nine generals of the new military leadership of Duque, including Martinez, were directly or indirectly linked to "false positive ".

In the case of Martínez, the Prosecutor's Office is investigating 23 extrajudicial executions allegedly committed by soldiers of the 10th Brigade in 2005 while he was second in command.

The NGO presented a document signed by the then colonel, in which he certifies the payment of one million pesos to an informant who helped them in two military operations and which were clasified by Martinez as "excellent results" but then it was determined that soldiers of the brigade had executed two civilians, one of them a 13-year-old girl.

Martinez denies the accusations and has said that his function at that time was administrative and logistical and not on the battlefield. In addition, there are no known cases against him or any investigations that link him to false positives.

Despite this Leahy and two other US senators sent a letter to President Duque a few weeks ago asking him not to promote Martinez. In that letter, which was revealed by EL TIEMPO, the senators tell him that although everyone should be considered innocent until proven otherwise, it does not make sense to promote or give command functions to people who have been linked to human rights abuses.

In past years, and in similar situations, senator Leahy's office has imposed temporary blockades to the military aid given to Colombia.

At this moment the country is being given US $ 20 million that go directly to the Army and another US $ 200 million that are directed to the fight against drugs.


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