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Cablegate: Mod Overules Army Commander's Transfer of Key Human Rights

VZCZCXYZ0038
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3393/01 3211611
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171611Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0935
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003393

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/17
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PTER KJUS MCAP CO
SUBJECT: MOD OVERULES ARMY COMMANDER'S TRANSFER OF KEY HUMAN RIGHTS
OFFICIAL

REF: REF A: BOGOTA2629; REF B: BOGOTA2050

CLASSIFIED BY: William R. Brownfield, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

SUMMARY

-------


1. (C) Minister of Defense (MOD) Gabriel Silva Lujan countermanded
a transfer order from the army commander that would have sent the
reform-minded army inspector general to the defense attache post in
Chile -- and to an early retirement. Instead, Army Inspector
General (IG) Major General Carlos Suarez, will be promoted to IG
over all of Colombia's armed forces. Silva's move countered Army
Commander Oscar Gonzalez Pena's obvious effort to frustrate the
IG's investigations into "false positives" -- military murders
presented as combat kills -- and is a positive indication that the
new MOD is willing to continue human rights reform. Despite a
significant drop in "false positive" murders, Suarez expressed
concern that the practice could once again become common, as many
high-level commanders who had directly or tacitly supported it
remained in high-level command positions in the military. End
Summary.


MOD OVERRULES ARMY COMMANDER, PROMOTES IG

-----------------------------------------


2. (C) Following a conversation on November 6 in which the
Ambassador expressed the USG's strong reservations over the
transfer of IG Suarez, MOD Silva told the Ambassador on November 12
that he had countermanded Army Commander Oscar Gonzalez Pena's
order to transfer to Chile Army Inspector General Carlos Suarez,
the official who investigated the Soacha extrajudicial executions
(EJEs) that led to the dismissal of 51 members of the Colombian
Army. Instead, Silva promoted Suarez to serve as IG of the Armed
Forces, reporting directly to him. (Note: The position normally
reports to Chief of Defense Freddy Padilla. It was unclear whether
the MOD intended to change the line of command, though as IG of the
Armed Forces Suarez would have more regular access to Silva. End
note.) Gonzalez Pena had ordered the IG to transfer effective
November 9 to a four-month special project prior to becoming
militaryattache to Chile in March 2010. Silva said he was pleased
with Suarez' work as IG, and that he intended to give him carte
blanche to be aggressive with the Armed Forces on human rights
issues. Suarez expressed satisfaction over his promotion and his
ability to continue to address military crimes.


ARMY COMMANDER LIMITS DISMISSALS,

MILITARY JUSTICE "FROZEN"

-------------------------


3. (C) In a meeting with Polcouns on November 6, Suarez attributed
the surprise transfer to Gonzalez Pena's ongoing efforts to
"paralyze" the IG's approximately 150 investigations into EJEs (REF
A). Suarez said Gonzalez Pena had blocked approximately 30
administrative dismissals through his influence on the two other
officers who vote on Suarez' recommendations, Deputy Army Commander
General Jorge Octavio Ardila and Army Human Resources Head General
Javier Fernandez Leal. Suarez voiced doubts that Gonzalez Pena's
pick to replace him as Army IG, General Luis Felipe ParedesCadena,
would demonstrate independence to promote "false positive"
investigations. Suarez also questioned the military justice
system's ability to act autonomously in the current environment.
Even though the military judges are ostensibly independent, Suarez


said, the system is currently "frozen" and human rights cases are
not being transferred to the ordinary justice system.


FALSE POSITIVES DOWN,

BUT COULD RECUR

---------------


4. (C) Suarez confirmed a major drop in "false positive" crimes,
noting his office had only received nine such allegations -- all
but two deemed credible -- in 2009. Still, Suarez underscored the
risk of backsliding, given the fact that a number of commanders who
had allowed the practice to go on remain in place. In this group
he included Gonzalez Pena, Ardila, Fernandez, and Army Human Rights
Directorate Head General Jorge Rodriguez, who Suarez labeled as
"counter-reform" (REF B). Without significant personnel changes,
warned Suarez, there could be no institutional change.


COMMENT

-------


5. (C) While technically General Gonzalez Pena has gotten away with
transferring an aggressive pro-reform officer out of the number
three slot in the Army, we believe Suarez will successfully carry
on his work at a higher level. We doubt that Gonzalez Pena will
advance on human rights reform in the Army without consistent
pressure from MOD Silva and President Uribe.
BROWNFIELD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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