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News > Colombia

Colombia Army Chief Under Probe for Extrajudicial Killings

  • Colombia's army commander Nicacio Martinez Espinel under investigation for illegal killings of civilians.

    Colombia's army commander Nicacio Martinez Espinel under investigation for illegal killings of civilians. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 May 2019

Colombia' army chief under investigation after reports of him ordering extrajudicial killings for financial reward surfaced. 

Colombia's inspector general says his office will investigate whether or not to remove the army's leader, Major General Nicacio Martinez Espinel, for the alleged cover-up of civilian killings in “false positive” operations during the 2000s.


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Inspector General Fernando Carrillo announced the preliminary investigation after there were multiple public reports of extrajudicial killings under Martinez’s orders. The army commander has been linked to 30 homicides.

A New York Times Report earlier this month said that some of the orders given by Martinez “sent chills down the ranks” of army members. Soldiers were ordered to shoot and kill anyone carrying a gun. They were even offered rewards for reporting those deaths as combat kills.

On May 26, anonymous sources revealed further evidence to the Associated Press that Espinel was authorizing extradicial killings and extorting funds.  

In an interview with El Espectador, Inspector Carrillo said that he would investigate “to verify instances of irregular conduct, identify the supposed perpetrators (and) determine whether they constitute a disciplinary violation,” said the oversight authority.

Colombian President Ivan Duque announced he would be forming a commission to investigate whether Martinez violated international humanitarian law and human rights of Colombians. Duque appointed Espinel to lead the nation's army last December when there was already evidence of systemic killings by the army leader during his earlier years.

Duque announced the commission after pressure from the opposition who wanted Martinez to resign.

“The facts revealed thus far are deeply unsettling to the extent that the government itself has put together a commission in order to clarify what happened. We must get to the bottom of the issue. The one thing we cannot do is leave this in limbo,” Carillo said.

During the 2000s, when Espinel was second-in-command of the 10th Brigade in northeast Colombia, the government has found evidence of 23 illegal killings. Former members of the regiment are also under investigation for these murders.

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