A Colombian general could become the most senior military official charged over the murders of civilians who were then disguised as guerrillas killed in combat.
General Mario Montoya allegedly ordered and oversaw so-called ‘False Positive’ killings during the 2000s, in which predominantly young and poor Colombians were murdered, often after being lured through fake job offers. The scale of the killings, which were committed to imply success in counterinsurgency operations and in return for incentives, was revealed earlier this year when Colombia’s transitional justice court, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), found the military to have murdered at least 6,402 civilians who were presented as combat fatalities between 2002 and 2008 during the government of Álvaro Uribe.
Montoya is accused of overseeing the abduction and killings of 104 people, including five minors. At the time the crimes were being committed, the general enjoyed a high-profile media platform and was regularly interviewed on television. Despite over 10,000 people, predominantly lower-ranking members of the armed forces, having been investigated over the False Positives scandal, fewer than one in five have been convicted.
However, Montoya is unlikely to stand trial under the standard or military justice systems as in 2018 he submitted himself to the JEP, in which former guerrillas and military officials accused of human rights abuses during the conflict can receive reduced sentences in return for testimonies and acceptance of their responsibility.