Colombia’s war crimes tribunal began hearing retired General Mario Montoya, the country’s former army commander, about his allegedly leading role in the mass killing of civilians on Wednesday.
The highly anticipated hearing was held behind closed doors as the man accused of being one of the masterminds behind the systematic execution of thousands of civilians to inflate the army’s success in its armed conflict with guerrillas.
Montoya, a former professor at the United States’ School of the Americas, has consistently denied any wrongdoings.
The Special Jurisdiction of Peace reminded the general, however, that 11 of his former subordinates have testified against him and that if he doesn’t tell the truth he may spend the rest of his life in prison.
I don’t want bloodshed, I want rivers of blood.
Retired General Mario Montoya, according to Colonel Robinson Gonzalez
If he does tell the truth, he may remain in liberty, but will be obliged to repair his victims.
The hour of truth: Colombia’s former army chief called to trial over systematic killing of civilians
National hero or national shame?
Montoya is Colombia’s most-decorated former army official, despite his alleged terrorist activity, ties to drug lords and a slew of human rights violations apart from the murders of thousands of civilians.
The general was forced to retire in 2008 over the so-called “false positives scandal” and appointed ambassador to the Dominican Republic by former President Alvaro Uribe, a close ally of the general.
Montoya’s trial has been complicated by the fact that former army officials who testified against him were threatened with death in an apparent attempt to keep the lid on the army’s cesspool of human rights violations.
Victims protest in front of war crimes tribunal
While Montoya was giving testimony behind closed doors, family members of victims of the army’s mass killings gathered outside the war crimes tribunal to demand justice.
“He is not just responsible for the false positives, but also the forced disappearance of many Colombians since 1990,” said a representative, many of whom have been demanding justice for more than a decade.
We demand today that the JEP be cooperative and that there is a real celerity in finding out the truth of what he has to say