BOGOTA: President Juan Manuel Santos has replaced Colombia’s top military leaders, days after the release of a Human Rights Watch report alleging complicity by the country’s top brass in extrajudicial killings of civilians.
In a press conference Monday, Maduro announced that General Jaime Alfonso Lasprilla, head of Colombia’s army, would be replaced by General Alberto Mejia Ferrero.
The head of Colombia’s navy, Admiral Hernando Wills, will be replaced by Admiral Leonardo Santamaria, Santos said. General Carlos Bueno, meanwhile, will take over command of Colombia’s air force from General Guillermo Leon.
The overhaul of the military’s top echelon comes just days after the release of a Human Rights Watch report alleging that several top Colombian military leaders were aware of “widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings” of civilians between 2002 and 2008.
Maduro said the changes were being made according to “normal and necessary procedures” and thanked the three outgoing military officers for their service “on behalf of all the Colombian people.”
Santos formally rejected the findings of the June 24 HRW report, but Rodriguez and Lasprilla are cited by name in the document.
The 95-page report presented evidence strongly suggesting that various generals and colonels knew or should have known about the killings and in some cases, may have ordered them.
The report says prosecutors are investigating at least 3,000 of such cases in which army troops allegedly murdered civilians and reported the deaths as combat fatalities, in order to bolster body counts in their war against armed guerrilla insurgencies.
HRW said their report was based on an extensive review of prosecution files, witness testimony and other data.