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Sat May 25, 2019, 05:50 PM

New evidence links Colombia army chief to civilian slayings

Source: Associated Press

New evidence links Colombia army chief to civilian slayings
Joshua Goodman, Associated Press Updated 4:34 pm CDT, Saturday, May 25, 2019



Photo: Fernando Vergara, AP
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FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2018 file photo, Army Commander Gen. Nicacio Martinez Espinel, right, salutes during a swearing-in ceremony for the new military and police commanders, in Bogota, Colombia. New evidence has emerged linking Martinez Espinel to the alleged cover up of civilian killings more than a decade ago. The documents, provided to The Associated Press by a person familiar with an ongoing investigation into the extrajudicial killings, come as Martinez Espinel faces mounting pressure to resign over orders he gave troops this year, 2019, to step up attacks in what some fear could pave the way for a return of serious human rights violations.


BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — New evidence has emerged linking the embattled head of Colombia's army to the alleged cover-up of civilian killings more than a decade ago.

The documents, provided to The Associated Press by a person familiar with an ongoing investigation into the extrajudicial killings, come as Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel faces mounting pressure to resign over orders he gave troops this year to step up attacks in what some fear could pave the way for a return of serious human rights violations.

Colombia's military has been blamed for as many as 5,000 extrajudicial killings at the height of the country's armed conflict in the mid-2000s as troops under pressure by top commanders inflated body counts, in some cases dressing up civilians as guerrillas in exchange for extra pay and other perks.

What became known as the "false positives" scandal has cast a dark shadow over the U.S.-backed military's record of battleground victories. Fifteen years later not a single top commander has been held accountable for the slayings.

Human Rights Watch in February harshly criticized President Ivan Duque's appointment of Martínez Espinel, noting that he was second-in-command of the 10th Brigade in northeast Colombia during years for which prosecutors have opened investigations into 23 illegal killings . The rights group revealed that then Col. Martínez Espinel certified payments to an informant who led to "excellent results" in a purported combat operation in which an indigenous civilian and 13-year-old girl were killed. A court later convicted two soldiers of abducting them from their home, murdering them and putting weapons on their bodies so they appeared to be rebels.

Read more: https://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/AP-finds-evidence-linking-head-of-Colombia-s-army-13896401.php

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