Victim of alias Don Berna asks to be heard by United States Judge
(Translated by Makayla Counselman, a CSN volunteer translator)
Medellin, Feb. 17 (IPC) The legal representatives of the mother of a young boy who disappeared from la Columa 13 of Medellin, presented a legal motion on Thursday in New York before a Federal Judge whom will sentence the paramilitary Diego Fernando Murillo on February 24th of the next year. President Alvaro Uribe Velez extradited Murillo Bejarano, a known associate with alias De Berna, to the United States, on May 13, 2008 along with 14 other chief paramilitaries.
Judge Richard Berman of the District of South New York was asked to listen to the victim and consider her rights to consult a public prosecutor and to be restituted before the sentencing of the paramilitary leader. The Judge will take into account the testimony of the victim when fixing the terms of the sentence, which could include an order of financial reparation to the victim. This legal procedure opens the possibility of intervention by Colombian victims in drug trafficking proceedings against paramilitary leaders in the United States.
On June 17, 2008, Murillo pleaded guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine to the United States, and faces a possible sentence of 27 to 33 years. He admits his double role in las Auc: as Chief Inspector and in ordering the activities of the drug trafficking, the transport of cocaine, as well as the financial operations of the organization. In 2001, las Auc were included in a list of terrorist organizations by the United States government.
The mother affirmed she was a victim of the drug trafficking conspiracy committed by Murillo Bejarano against the United States. Following the legal motion, the Chief Paramilitary ordered the disappearance and execution of the residents of la Comuna 13, including the son of the petitioner, in order to secure a “strategic route” for the drug trafficking. These acts account for the disappearances and assassinations of at least 70 people since November, including men, women, and children. In February of 2008, Murillo accepted his penal obligation for the disappearance and executions of the residents of Comuna 13.
As a test of the link between drug trafficking and the disappearances, a writing stated that there had been discovery of a laboratory of narcotics, near la Comuna 13, which had the capacity to process 1,000 kilograms of cocaine per week. On a property nearby, common graves were discovered with the remains of persons disappeared by the paramilitary leaders of alias don Berna. The writing concluded that Murillo used “violent methods to drive the drug trafficking” and “used the earnings from the trafficking to finance the disappearances and killings.”
The Legal Clinic of International Human Rights of the School of Law at the University of California Berkeley and the private firm of Wilsom Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati represented the petitioner. The motion is based on the Law of Rights of Victims of Crimes, in use since 2004, and on the broad rights of victims in the United States. This will be the first time the law is used to favor the victims of human rights violations, and specifically, to favor Colombian victims of paramilitarism. In addition to having this power, the legal clinic represents the victims of 7 of the 15 extradited paramilitaries.
“We want to participate in the hearings and dialogues with the public prosecutors to assure that the extraditions and the procedures for drug trafficking may not be an obstacle for the truth and justice in Colombia,” said Roxanna Altholz, the Associate Director of the legal clinic in Berkeley and representative of the petitioner.
Following the extradition of the paramilitary leaders, las Auc is to face the charges of drug trafficking, in which the governments of Colombia and the United States have promised the participation of those being extradited to be included in the procedures for justice and peace. The Ambassador of the United States in Colombia, William Brownfield, assured that the United States government will facilitate “all the access, all the information and all the opportunities available to the victims” of the crimes committed by the paramilitary.
Since the date, at least six of the fifteen paramilitary leaders have come to agreements with the United States authorities and only one of those extradited, Salvatore Mancuso, has recognized new declarations about the violations of human rights committed in Colombia. “The extradited paramilitaries are looking to agree with the United States authorities in order to reduce their sentences,” said attorney Altholz, “it depends on the United States justice system to give them incentive to talk about the assassinations and disappearances in Colombia.
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