Notorious Human Rights Abuser Promoted to Head Colombian Army
News from Colombia |
on: Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Despite claims by the Colombian regime that they are taking human rights concerns seriously, an Army General implicated in hundreds of extra-judicial executions has been promoted to lead the Colombian Army. General Oscar Enrique Gonzalez not only permitted his troops to murder scores of civilians but also attacked human rights organisations that highlighted the abuses.
Gonzalez was promoted on November 4th to replace General Montoya, who had resigned following accusations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Colombian military were involved in "widespread and systematic" murders of civilians. The Colombian Government promised to act but then inexplicably promoted the notorious General Gonzalez to the top post.
Between 2003 and 2006 Gonzalez commanded the 4th Brigade of the Colombian Army and then the 7th Division, both of which are based in the region of Antioquia. Throughout his period in charge both units were widely condemned for extra-judicial killings and in 2004 the 4th Brigade was specifically cited in a report by the UN High Commission for Human Rights as being involved in an increasing number of executions of innocent civilians.
During his time in Antioquia the region had perhaps the highest levels of such killings in Colombia and in a November 5th press statement one regional human rights group, the Popular Training Institute (IPC), said they had documented over 100 murders perpetrated by men under Gonzalez's command including those of a pregnant woman, three people with mental disabilities and 12 teenagers. During one military operation, codenamed 'Espartaco', that Gonzalez oversaw in 2004 at least 22 killings of civilians occurred.
The internationally-respected group of human rights lawyers based in Antioquia known as the 'Corporacion Juridica Libertad' has said that most of those killed were peasant farmers who the Army subsequently presented as guerrillas killed in combat. The Corporacion also say that have documented 195 extra-judicial killings in the region during 2004 and 2005 whilst Gonzalez was in control and other groups have also accused him of overseeing 'social cleansing' operations in the city of Medellin.
In 2006, shortly after human rights groups had drawn attention to the high numbers of murders in Antioquia, General Gonzalez told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that the denunciations were nothing more that part of the 'political war' being waged by the guerrillas against the Colombian state. He went on to say that the complaints were simply "scams by the guerrillas with the help of some NGOs". After the UN High Commission for Human Rights had complained about the high number of extra-judicial killings in his area of operations the General added that "this is what some sympathisers of the subversives do to try to half the military's operations."
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