World, Americas

Colombia: Colonel fearful after exposing army killings

Alvaro Amortegui says he is being intimidated after exposing new cases of illegal killings known as 'false positives'

Laura Gamba   | 21.02.2020
Colombia: Colonel fearful after exposing army killings

BOGOTA, Colombia 

A Colombian army colonel said in a video posted on social media this week that he fears for his safety after informing his commanders that the military has been carrying out extrajudicial killings.

Alvaro Amortegui Gallego said he had been a victim of intimidation in the military after approaching Army Commander Nicacio Martínez in 2019 to inform him there were new cases of illegal killings or 'false positives' involving the military. 

"He told me they were going to start investigations and then nothing happened...What happened was they informed the officers that I was investigating, and that is when the persecution against me started to get worse,” he said in the video, which was addressed to President Ivan Duque, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and military force commanders.

It is believed that there may be more than 8,000 'false positive' cases in Colombia in which civilians across the country were murdered by soldiers in the mid-2000s and presented as combatants to boost body counts and receive benefits such as promotions and time off. Army members even dressed corpses in new uniforms and planted weapons near their bodies to make them look like left-wing guerrilla members. 

In the video, Amortegui asked commanders to review whether generals are using intelligence in the army as a systematic tool to intimidate officers who do not align themselves with institutional doctrines.

The video also mentions retired General Mario Montoya, a former army commander who has been linked to the false positive cases. Between 2006 and 2008, the time during which he led the army, extrajudicial executions by soldiers peaked, with more than 1,100 alleged civilian killings in 2007 alone, according to prosecution figures.

Amortegui claimed that when he was under the command of General Montoya, he received an order to kill 17 civilians captured in an operation and then pass them off as alleged guerrillas killed in combat.

"There is nothing heroic about the orders he issued. Killing village fools is not heroic. Generals, you go to war with soldiers, not with civilians,” he said, referring to the fact that disabled individuals were specifically targeted because of their vulnerability.

In response, the Military General Command issued a statement saying it gave instructions to carry out security studies to establish Amortegui's level of risk in order to make the appropriate decisions.

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