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  • Former Colombian President Uribe and retired Army General Montoya, who is under investigation for his role in the false positives scandal, Bogota, Aug. 9, 2006.

    Former Colombian President Uribe and retired Army General Montoya, who is under investigation for his role in the false positives scandal, Bogota, Aug. 9, 2006. | Photo: EFE

Published 29 March 2016

One active general and one retired general are under investigation for their role a scandal that saw thousands of civilians killed.

Colombian Army General William Torres was arrested Monday in connection to alleged implications in the deliberate killings of civilians disguised to look like guerrilla combatants in what is known as the false positives scandal. 

The arrest of Torres marks the first instance where an active general in Colombia will face charges related to the this scandal. His arrest was one of the parting acts of outgoing Attorney General Luis Eduardo Montealegre, who stepped down from his post Monday.

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The Killing of Innocents: False Positives in Colombia

A second Army General, Mario Montoya, who is retired, was called in for questioning related to the scandal. Montoya served as commander of the army during the administration of former far-right president Alvaro Uribe. 

Montoya and Uribe pursued a heavy-handed policy toward Colombia's leftist insurgent groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, currently on the cusp of signing a peace deal with the current government. 

Officials allege that Montoya deliberately ignored warnings that soldiers were disguising civilians as guerrillas killed in combat. 

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Report Confirms Colombian Generals Involved in False Positives

These extrajudicial killings artificially increased the “success” of the army operations against rebel groups. Soldiers were also given bonuses for their kills, giving them further incentive to engage in human rights violations.

Many of those killed were also allegedly targeted as means of silencing critics. Torres' arrest is in connection to the deaths of Roque Julio Torres and Daniel Torres Arciniegas, who were allegedly killed because they had spoken out against an extrajudicial execution in their area.

Accusations that Montoya turned a blind eye to human rights violations have dogged the retired general for years. 

Prosecutors allege the practice of extrajudicial killing was widespread during his tenure as head of the army. Montoya served as head of the Army between 2006 and 2008, years that saw some of the highest numbers of extrajudicial killings in Colombia's recent history. 

Though charges against Montoya were not announced, sources inside Colombia's prosecutor's office told local media that at least 10 murder charges could be filed. 

Between 2002 and 2008, an estimated 4,000 civilians were killed and presented as guerrillas killed in combat.

The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia said last April that up to 22 army generals were under investigation for their alleged involvement in the false positives scandal. Hundred of members of the Army, mostly rank-and-file troops and low-level officers, have been imprisoned over their involvement.

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