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School of the Americas Instructor Who Oversaw Dozens of Killings Leads U.S.-Backed Army
In the wake of Colombian military scandals earlier this year, General Jaime Lasprilla Villamizar has been appointed commander of the Colombian Army. He had just served as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and previously as commander of Joint Task Force Omega – both units that have been the focus of U.S. assistance in Colombia.
The special operations unit, known by its Spanish acronym CCOES, has been a key vehicle for U.S. military aid in Colombia. A Washington Post investigation in December reported that the unit is sent in after bombing runs to gather bodies of guerrillas and other material. CCOES is the Colombian counterpart to the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which conducts secret targeted killings around the world.
A former instructor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (the SOA's new name), General Lasprilla previous commanded Task Force Omega, which received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. training, supplies and equipment, under Washington’s ill-conceived drug war and ‘war on terror.’
There is just one catch. In 2006-2007, Lasprilla directed the Ninth Brigade in Colombia’s Huila Department, which was responsible for at least 75 killings of civilians under his command. Under the U.S. Leahy Law, aiding a foreign unit is prohibited if there is credible information that the unit’s commander committed gross human rights abuses. To abide by Leahy Law, Washington must end its assistance to the Colombian Army, until those responsible for the killings committed under Lasprilla’s command are brought to justice.
Take Action: Click here to send a message to the State Department. Most of the killings committed under Lasprilla in Huila are called “false positives,” many under investigation by Colombian human rights prosecutors. “False positives” were executions of civilians by troops who then claimed the victims were guerrillas killed in combat. The Army reportedly carried out more than 4,000 such killings from 2002 to 2010.
Lasprilla was an instructor at WHINSEC in 2002-2003, and studied for a year at the National Defense University in Washington in 2005-06, just before his deployment to Huila.
Take action: Send a message to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Tom Malinowski, and urge him to apply Leahy Law to the Colombian Army under General Lasprilla’s command: http://SOAW.org/colombia
Article by John Lindsay-Poland, one of the authors of the upcoming report The Rise and Fall of “False Positive” Killings in Colombia. The research in the report shows that the 25 Colombian WHINSEC instructors and graduates from 2001 to 2003 for which any subsequent information was available, 12 of them – 48% - had either been charged with a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.