Washington, D.C.—Today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) sent a letter to Colombian Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Villegas, raising concerns about seven military officers who have been nominated for promotions. These officers have been linked to crimes ranging from extrajudicial killings and illegal wiretapping to participation in the infamous “false positives” scandal, in which thousands of Colombian civilians were killed or forcibly disappeared between 2002 and 2008.
WOLA’s letter, signed by WOLA Senior Associate for Regional Security Adam Isacson and WOLA Senior Associate for the Andes Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, notes that each of these seven officers is either under investigation, awaiting trial, or facing allegations that they oversaw appalling human rights violations. Their promotion in light of these claims, the letter notes, would “send a perplexing message at a sensitive time” for the country.
“Colombia is finally nearing an end to its decades-long armed conflict, and is holding more and more human rights abusers accountable, but promoting these officials without first letting the criminal justice system do its work would represent a setback,”said WOLA’s Adam Isacson. “We had all hoped that Colombia's armed forces were putting this sort of thing behind them. That's why these nominations are so perplexing."
Despite allegations, these seven have all either been nominated for promotion to the rank of general (which must be approved by Colombia’s Congress) or been cleared to attend the High Military Studies Course (CAEM), which is a prerequisite to being promoted to general. These men are: Army Col. Nelson Velásquez Parrado, Army Col. Marcos Evangelista Pinto Lizarazo, Army Col. Edgar Alberto Rodríguez Sánchez, Army Col. Adolfo León Hernández Martínez, Army Gen. Marcolino Tamayo Tamayo, Army Gen. Mauricio Ricardo Zúñiga Campo, and Air Force Col. Sergio Andrés Garzón Vélez.
In light of the gravity of these allegations, WOLA calls on Minister Villegas to reconsider the promotions and CAEM designations of these individuals, or to postpone them until these allegations are clarified by Colombia’s criminal justice system.
“These promotions reinforce the perception that Colombia’s armed forces are more interested in defending their own interests rather than guaranteeing accountability for human rights violations,” said WOLA’s Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli.
Communications Officer, WOLA
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