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Colombian military court to try general in murders

An army general accused of ignoring a town's cry for help during a five-day murder rampage by rightist paramilitary gunmen will be tried by a military court.

The National Judicature Council, a body that resolves jurisdictional disputes, ruled Tuesday that Brig. Gen. Jaime Humberto Uscategui's case falls under military jurisdiction because Uscategui did not directly take part in the July 1997 attack.

Uscategui was arrested in May for failing to act against the killing of as many as 30 residents of the southeastern town of Mapiripan. He is believed to be the highest-ranking army officer ever arrested in a human rights case while on active duty.

Judge Enrique Camilo Noguera of the council said its magistrates voted 4-3 against transferring Uscategui's case to civilian courts, where he probably would have a greater chance of being convicted.

Colombia's military courts have a long history of absolving high-ranking officers in human rights cases.