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Military

Iran Press TV

Colombia president replaces military leaders after HRW report

Iran Press TV

Tue Jul 7, 2015 9:38AM

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has replaced the country's top military leaders, shortly after a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report accused them of being aware of extrajudicial killings of civilians.

Santos made the announcement during a press conference in the Colombian capital, Bogota, on Monday.

The president further said the head of the Colombian army, General Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla, would be replaced by General Alberto Mejia Ferrero.

The head of the country's navy, Admiral Hernando Wills, will also be replaced by Admiral Leonardo Santamaria, while General Carlos Bueno will take over the command of the air force from General Guillermo Leon.

On June 24, the HRW released a 95-page report alleging that a number of top Colombian military leaders were aware of "widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings" between 2002 and 2008.

The report, titled "On Their Watch: Evidence of Senior Army Officers' Responsibility for False Positive Killings in Colombia," which specifically names Lasprilla, presented evidence suggesting that a number of generals and colonels knew or should have known or may have even ordered the killings of civilians during the given time period.

According to the report, prosecutors are currently investigating about 3,000 cases in which army soldiers allegedly killed civilians and reported their deaths as combat fatalities in order to present larger numbers of killings in their war against FARC rebels.

The HRW's Americas Director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said the false positive killings amounted to the "worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent years," adding that many senior army officials bear responsibility.

Yet, he said, "The army officials in charge at the time of the killings have escaped justice and even ascended to the top of the military command, including the current heads of the army and armed forces."

The HRW said its report was based on a review of prosecution files, witness testimony and other data.

So far, only a small number of low-ranking soldiers and colonels have been convicted. No generals have been convicted, yet.

SZH/MKA/HJL



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