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COLOMBIA is considering whether to censure Defence Minister Guillermo Botero over alleged “kill orders” issued to the country’s armed forces.
The orders reportedly offer incentives for murdering former guerilla fighters.
A debate opened in the Colombian House of Representatives yesterday after Mr Botero was criticised for allegedly encouraging human rights abuses.
A New York Times article in May claimed that the minister ordered Colombian military leaders “to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle … and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process.”
It echoed a previous policy enacted under former President Alvaro Uribe between 2001 and 2008, when up to 5,000 civilians were killed and presented as left-wing guerillas in a bid to obtain bonuses or promotions.
The article drew a hasty response from the Colombian army, who promised to modify the instructions while claiming there could have been a “misunderstanding” over what it meant.
General Nicacio Martinez Espinel, the head of the Colombian army, told reporters: “We have never demanded a number of dead. We’ve never done it and we never will. I’ve never demanded it. We’re demanding effectiveness.”
Right-wing President Ivan Duque said he was establishing an independent commission to review the orders to ensure they did not violate international or human rights law.
More than 130 former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) have been killed since the guerilla group disarmed as part of a peace process signed in 2016.
Congress heard whistleblowers’ allegations that Gen Martinez ordered commanders to set goals for the number of criminals and armed group members killed, captured and forced to surrender in battle.
Former Farc guerilla and current Farc party legislator Luis Alberto Alban said: “There are orders which have been made public that have brought us terror that we’re headed back to times that we thought were over.”
Green Alliance party member Katherine Miranda said the New York Times report “clearly showed that we have fallen into policies which have incentivised extrajudicial executions.”
Mr Botero denies the allegations against him. He told a Senate hearing last week that while military operations had increased, operations by the armed forces were “always done with respect for human rights.”
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