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The Lack of Guarantees for Victims of Crimes of State: Persecution of the Sucre
Chapter of MOVICE
(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
“We continue to demand that the State protect our lives; it is our right, even more in our situation and we also make the State responsible ahead of time for anything that may happen to any of us.”
Family Members of Eudaldo Díaz February 17, 2010
At the end of February 2010, the former Congressional representative Álvaro García Romero became the first lawmaker in history found guilty for his involvement in forming self-defense groups in Sucre, diverting public funds to finance them, being one of the participants in the bloody incursion into Macayepo, and for the assassination of a ballot supervisor in San Onofre (Sucre). During the trial, the court brought to light the perverse triunvirate made up of the rancher Joaquín García, the former governor Salvador Arana, and “Fatty” García, who used to meet in the Los Ángeles, La 70, and El Palmar ranches. In El Palmar, the Justice Department has found more than 500 mass graves, because it was the torture center of the paramilitary chief Rodrigo Mercado Peluffo, alias “Cadena.” A few months earlier, on December 3, 2009, the former governor of the Department of Sucre, Salvador Arana Sus, was sentenced to 40 years of prison for the crimes of conspiracy to commit crimes, forced aggravated disappearance, and aggravated homicide of the former mayor of the township of El Roble, Eudaldo Díaz Salgado. President Uribe named the former governor of Sucre, Salvador Arana, as ambassador to Chile just after the homicide.
In the Department of Sucre, paramilitarism deeply entrenched itself into political, economic, and social life. Since 2006, 35 politicians (2 governors, 4 congressional representatives, 3 senators, and 7 deputies, among others) have been investigated by the Supreme Court of the Justice and Attorney General’s Department, for their connections to paramilitary groups. Between 1994 and 2008, when these people had public appointments, the Department saw massacres like the one in Ovejas (January 16, 2000, 42 dead) and the one in Chengue (January 17, 2001, 31 dead). The Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations in Colombia declared at that time: “In these massacres there are strong indications of direct responsibility of public officials in the region, both civilian and military.” Nevertheless, in spite of the arrests and the supposed process of paramilitary demobilization, the paramilitary structures remain in place in the region.
The Sucre chapter of MOVICE emerged as a challenge to the impunity and entrenchment of paramilitarism in the political, economic, and social life of the Department. It is based on the experiences of human rights, social, and political opposition organizations, which have been working in the Department for decades. In August of 2006, members of the Sucre chapter of MOVICE marched in Sincelejo to denounce the resurgence of paramilitarism in the region. As a result of this civilian demonstration, serious threats proliferated against defenders and victims of the Chapter, and a list of people to be eliminated was said to exist, apparently made up by the politicians in the region. Therefore on November 8, 2006, the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (DDHH) offered precautionary measures to 17 social leaders, among them Carmelo Agámez, Juan David Díaz, and Ingrid Vergara.
On November 27, 2006, the Sucre chapter of MOVICE, as part of its strategy of fighting against impunity and for the right to truth, together with the DDHH Commission of the Senate, held a Civilians’ Hearing for the Truth in the township of San Onofre. 1500 people attended and almost 300 accusations of violations of the DDHH and acts of corruption were reported. As a result of the accusations offered in the Hearing, several paramilitary members, politicians, and the former mayor of San Onofre, Jorge Blanco Fuentes, were arrested. After the Hearing, harrassment of members of MOVICE increased, which caused the forced displacement of about fifteen members of the Sucre chapter to other parts of the country and, in one case, exile.
As a result of their work accusing and making visible the paramilitary infiltration of local and regional politics, aggression and threats against members of the Sucre chapter of MOVICE have been constant. MOVICE has been able to compile a list of more than 50 aggressive acts against its members in Sucre since its formation in 2006, among which include: attacks, assassinations of protected persons, illegal home invasions, direct threats, threats to family members, judicial assemblies, arrests, designations, and intimidation. Those who have done outstanding work in the chapter find themselves in a situation in which their lives and physical wellbeing are at grave risk; currently, they are: Ingrid Vergara, Juan David Díaz, and Carmelo Agámez Berrio, and their families.
The Díaz Family
Juan David Díaz, son of the former mayor of El Roble, assassinated on April 10, 2003, on the day that his father was killed, was threatened by persons who told him that he should leave Sucre within 24 hours. “They have tried to kill me on the streets. They have threatened and persecuted me, and they have told me to abandon the area or the same thing will happen to me as happened to my father, because I continue to accuse paramilitary groups and to work for justice. But I will not leave Sucre, because I must raise the flag that my father tried to raise, and that was destroyed.”1 In October 2009, in an e-mail, they told him that if Salvador Arana’s sentence was carried out, “for us too there would be one.” The Díaz family has seen an increase in threats since the sentencing of Arana.
1 “Inheritors of the Paramilitary Groups,” Human Rights Watch, February 2010.
In November 2008 the technical secretary of the Sucre chapter of MOVICE, Carmelo Agámez Berrio, was arrested because of drummed-up charges in which he was accused of belonging to the paramilitary structures. The criminal case against Carmelo Agámez has been subject to many violations of due process and judicial guarantees to the defense, because of which Carmelo filed a lawsuit, resolved in his favor on May 13 in a judgment in which the Criminal Section of the Superior Court of Sincelejo recognized the violation of fundamental rights of due process. In July 2009, the federal Attorney General promulgated a resolution in which a criminal disciplinary investigation was ordered against the prosecutor who opened the case against Agámez, for presumed acts of corruption in connection with his case against the defender of human rights. In spite of all the irregularities in the case, on November 6, 2009, it was decided that the defender of human rights would be indicted and brought to trial for the crime of which he was originally accused.
On December 14, a motion to appeal the order against Carmelo Agámez was filed with the federal Assistant Attorney General. With this motion, we request the revocation of the indictment, as well as his immediate release.
On December 31, 2009, at 7:30 am, Ingrid Vergara got a call on her cell phone from a restricted number in which a man with a coastal accent said, “where are you going, bitch?” and then hung up. At that time, Ingrid Vergara was outside of Sincelejo because of the harrassment that her 14 year-old daughter had experienced in October of 2009.
During the evening hours of February 5, 2010, the spokesperson for the Sucre chapter of MOVICE, Ingrid Vergara, was at a meeting with a friend who looks a lot like her. That day they were dressed very similarly. The friend left the meeting and took a motorcycle taxi home. The driver noticed that two men on a motorcycle were following her. They sped up and one of the men took out a gun and pointed it at Ingrid’s friend. When he saw her face, he lowered the gun, and the motorcycle disappeared. That same day Ingrid Vergara and her friend had been working on various projects for MOVICE, among which was the establishment of the right to petition of Iván Cepeda, spokesperson of MOVICE, asking the governor to resign, because of his presumed connections with paramilitary groups and the removal of the pictures of parapoliticians from the State Capitol.
Although Ingrid Vergara, Carmelo Agámez Berrio, and Juan Davíd Díaz have in place the precautionary measures of the Interamerican Commission of DDHH, they have complained about their lack of adequate protection to the government since 2006, and at no time have the facts and those responsible for the threats and aggressive acts been clarified. This level of impunity severely affects the work of defenders of human rights in MOVICE in Sucre.
We demand that:
- The Colombian government offer the necessary measures to protect the lives and physical wellbeing of Ingrid Vergara, Carmelo Agámez Berrio, Juan David Díaz, and their families.
- The Colombian judicial system guarantee transparent and just actions and to withdraw the charges against Carmelo Agámez and that it proceed to free him immediately.
- The Attorney General’s office immediately and effectively investigate the facts that involve the members of the Sucre chapter of MOVICE so that those responsible may be sanctioned.
THIRTEEN YEARS OF CONVICTION, BUILDING HOPE
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator)
On this March 23, the Peace Community was 13 years old. Throughout these years, there have been many people from different parts of the world who have witnessed what we have suffered from those who would destroy us. We have suffered every kind of deadly action that has been carried out by the armed actors in this country: the murders, the massacres, tortures, threats, displacements, sexual assaults, every kind of terror.
During the last few years, after the massacre in 2005, an act that was carried out by the Army working with the paramilitaries, the Government has never ceased or spared any effort to look for ways to destroy us. Disparagement, false charges, lies, distortions, aiding the advance of paramilitaries, and murder are some of the most frequent actions in the most recent days and months.
If we look at our 13 years’ journey, its goal was to be able to consummate our hopes, not that hope that is based on the distant future that has no end and never arrives, but that living hope that is revived and rebuilt every day, that hope that springs out of adversity, out of pain, out of absurdity, and that gains strength every day in spite of all hardships.
That is what they are trying to eliminate, the hope that builds community, because that is the hope that makes the impossible possible, that gives us firmness, makes us alive to pain, and makes it possible for us to build a world that is different from our world today.
These 13 years have shown us strong and fundamental steps in our community, essentially the reality of keeping alive our hopes and the consciousness of our convictions. We have built a world that is different and runs counter to many of the values of the society that destroys and that is indifferent to death and pain.
In these 13 years we have been able to create the Luis Eduardo Guerra Peace Village, a place that is the fruit of the community’s labor, of its memories, and of civil resistance. It is a place where we have had intense experiences, where we have relied on an alternative education, on a lifestyle in harmony with nature, and on sustainable agriculture; thus our lifestyle is different from destruction and inequality. We own our land collectively.
Many men and women in different parts of the world are celebrating with us these 13 years of following a different path. Because we are building and living in hope in the midst of death and hardship, we are creating a different kind of community, and that is what our Peace Community is.
Paramilitary organizations are advancing, and committing acts of terror in this area and in our country. Even faced with actions such as the ones during the last few days—they showed up in Tierra Amarilla wearing masks, carrying weapons, making threats and searching cars—we are still sticking with our daily efforts to transform our lives in the midst of death.
Lately we have created the Farmers’ University, where more than 150 people from different parts of the world and from various communities share in a dialog of learning, of convictions, and of efforts toward a different world, through sustainable agriculture, solar energy, alternative medicine, and local culture. We hear voices from different parts of the world in dialog, helping each other and building new knowledge in the service of an alternative global community, in harmony with nature.
It has been the most fervent tribute and the greatest resurrection that we have had for martyrs. We have listened to them once again, speaking to us with their voices of silence. We heard them in reflection and in the community work that bursts forth and believe in that transforming hope in the day to day and not in vain illusions.
We give thanks to all of those who have listened with us in solidarity and hope throughout these years, and we invite you to continue with those daily efforts to build a world full of justice, truth, and transparency, leading to a real peace.
Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado
March 23, 2010
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Eighty congressional candidates are parapolitical heirs
(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
Some eighty congressional candidates of the Republic of Colombia elected this Sunday are either parapolitical heirs or are from sectors related to drug traffic or corruption, but the number may be greater. It is said that many candidates listed from both the Senate and the House were drawn up from the Picota jail, which imprisons some of those involved in the most well-known political scandals who, despite this, continue to exercise their influence through family, friends and political front men.
The parapolitical scene is present in almost all of the national territories and in almost all political parties, which could signify that neither the country nor the political parties have learned their lesson from the recent and constant headline-grabbing scandals.
Ariel Avila, one of the investigators of the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), claims that the 2010 parapolitical agenda has two methods: parapolitical perpetrators or those accused of parapolitical activity either return to launch their candidacy or they participate in through proxies of wives, siblings, cousins or political front men.
The same investigator elaborated the hierarchy of the parties which have received these parapolitical heirs . In First place is the controversial National Integration Party (PIN) which has 19 of these candidates on their Senate list, while the official U Party has 13 ¨recycled parapoliticals.¨
The PIN Case
Parapolitical recycling has been the most intense in the PIN, the converted new name of the Citizen Convergence Party. According to political scientist Claudia Lopez, political observatory director of the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), PIN received candidates from the Valle, Cauca, Magdalena, Santander, Casanare and Bolívar.
The candidates from Bolivar include Hector Julio Alfonso, the son of Enilce Lopez ¨The Cat,¨ who was processed for various charges. Alfonso renounced his seat in the house after the opening of the investigation against him in the Supreme Court. He now, however, returns as a Senate candidate.
The PIN list includes the figure Manuel Julian Mazeneth, sponsored by the condemned ex-governor from Magdalena Trino Luna, who continued to be a grand elector in a good part of the Atlantic coast and supports Senate and House candidates.
Viviana Vlele, niece of the condemned ex-Senator Vicente Vlele, and Hernando de la Espriella, brother of the ex-Senator Miguel from Espriella, make up part of the Senate PIN list. Dieb Maloof, condemned ex-Senator of Colombia Viva, has as a front man the politician Adriana from White Jesus.
Other ex-Senators committed to the parapoliticas have the following family in the PIN list: Raul Vives, the brother of Luis Eduardo Vives Locouture; Eduardo Carlos, the brother of Jairo Merlano; and Doris Vega Gil, the wife of Convergence founder Luis Alberto ´The one-eyed´ Gil.
Hugo Aguilar, the ex-Governor of Santander and another accomplice of Gil, has a son Mauricio who is a Senate candidate. Juan Carlos Martinez Sinisterra, the controversial cell remodeler in the Picota jail, has various candidates in distinct parts of the Senate and House and in the PIN has Julian Estrada in the Senate.
The authors, godchildren and front men of controversial personal ´support´ do not hesitate to publish their sponsorship and do so publicly and evidently before potential voters.
The Liberal Aperture case
This movement was created by Miguel Angel Florez, condemned for another celebrated scandal: the ´pomaricazo´, where several million pesos were stolen from the House of Representatives at the end of the previous century.
Four years ago this association conceived an alliance known as the David Murcia Guzmán group. DMG received ´The Cat´ and other parapoliticals recycled from the Conservative party, and the brother of the extradited DMG head, Cristian Fredy Murcia, now heads the Senate list.
The National Electoral Council blocked the augmentation of the Liberal Aperture through the name of DMG, but its candidates, including the now inscribed Presidential candidate, continue utilizing it and defend DMG.
The movement inscribed 100 mostly unknown candidates to the Senate. Within these lie some of the money collectors whose names remain held in reserve before a penal investigation.
The U Party Case
The official U Party is one of the groups most affected by parapolitics. According to Claudia Lopez ,there are ´emblematic´ cases, such as that of the Senator Piedad Zucardi, wife of Juan Jose Garcia. Senator Zucardi has been investigated in the Supreme Court and condemned for corruption. Senator Zucardi is also the sister-in-law of Álvaro García Romero ´The Fat´, who was condemned to 40 years in prison for paramilitary involvement, homicide and participation in the Macayepo massacre.
In addition, the sister of Fat García, Teresa García Romero, who was consul in the current government in Germany, is Senate candidate for the controversial PIN.
Apart from the sister-in-law of alias ´The Fat´ García romero, the U has various candidates investigated for parapolitics. Among these are Armando Benedetti, Dilian Francisco Toro, Mauricio Lizcano, Jorge Visbal Martelo (who renounced his seat and returned to aspire), Mussa Besaile, Manuel Guillermo Mora and Pedro Pablo Trujillo.
However the U Party also has parapoliticians who are acting by proxy: Astrid Sanchez Montes from Oca, sister of Odin Sanchez, was detained both for parapolitics as well as ELN Politics. Montes also fixed the referendum vote on the reelection. Odín and his family, including the current governor of Chocó, have been mentioned in different corrupt acts in this department.
Mrs. Martiza Martinez, the wife of the investigated Senator Luis Carlos Torres de Meta, who resigned through the investigation in the Supreme Court, also appeared as a U candidate. Her campaign has been linked to rivers of money which circulate not only in Meta but in Casanare and other regions of Orinoquia, without explaining the origins of so many resources.
Also appearing in the Senatorial list of the U is Jairo de Jesus Rapias Ospina, one of the solicitors of the interview with alias ‘Job in the House of Nariño’. He was from Radical Change and is the brother of Gustavo Tapias, one of the ´12 of the scaffold´ close to Pablo Escobar as well as the ´Pepes,´ who were pardoned in exchange for mafia information.
Among others questioned in the U Party is Carlos Alberto Jaramillo, the man who lent in the money triangle between Colombia First and the reelection referendum promoters. Investigations have been launched regarding all of the anomalies in the fallen referendum. If the referendum is passed, the investigations would be passed on to the Supreme Court of Justice.
In the Conservative Party
Also affected by parapolitics, and inspite of the purges it has recently realized, the Conservative Party has the most talked about national scandals in their lists of heirs. According to the MOE map, Senator Carlos Barriga, arriving from City Convergence, had a previous parapolitical investigation. By proxy, the Conservatives have Sammy Merheg, brother of Habib Merheg, who renounced his seat after opening investigations in the Supreme Court.
Also in this list is Martha Curi, the daughter of Nicolas Curi, ex-Mayor of Cartegena. Curi has been linked to corruption scandals. The candidate is the wife of William Montes, who is also linked with parapolitics but was absolved by a judge after renouncing his seat. Another Conservative candidate is Olga Suarez Mira, ex-Mayor of Bello, Antioquia, mentioned for links with paramilitary sectors. Mira is the sister of Oscar Suarez Mira who, after Supreme Court investigations, renounced his seat. Oscar Suarez has been recorded to have passed, four years ago, from being the chauffeur of the mayor of Bello to one of the people with the greatest votes in Antioquia.
In Radical Change
This party is also mentioned to have candidates affiliated with parapolitics, starting with Senator Antonio Guerra de Espriella, who has preliminary investigations in the Supreme Court of Justice.
In the MOE report Pedro Antonio Aguirre is mentioned as a candidate affiliated with ex-Senator Miguel Pinedo Vidal. Aguirre is currently under parole and waiting to be called to court.
Claudia Lopez has two other acknowledgments in the case of Radical Change: Javier Caceres, the current Congressional President (involved in the alleged Etesa company scandal and investigated for parapolitics), and Daira Galvis, who arrived to the Senate as a substitute for ´One-eyed Gil´ after his detention. Galvis has admitted that she served as a lawyer for ´The Cat´.
In the Liberal Party
In the Liberal Party the case most often mentioned is that of Arleth Casado, the wife of ex-Senator Juan Manuel Lopez Cabrales, condemned for parapolitics. Claudia Lopez mentioned, ‘Hopefully Ms. Arleth says yes, like her husband, and will negotiate governmental secretaries of Cordoba with Mancuso paramilitaries´.
Also included in the MOE liberal list is Ángel Gabriel Conde, brother of Jose María Conde, and object of preliminary investigation in the Supreme Court of Justice.
Before voting watch the following presentation:
Peasant Leader Assassinated
On Monday, March 15, 2010, Jhonny Hurtado, President of the Human Rights Committee of the hamlet of La Catalina in the State of Meta, was assassinated. Hurtado was a 59-year-old campesino, who was tending to his parcel of land when he was shot. The Guayabero River region is occupied by Military Mobil Brigade No. 7, which makes up part of the Omega Military Force. The Military constantly patrols the region, violating human rights, and threatening human rights leaders. The Military presence in the region is a cause of deep concern for the residents of this area since the Military is continuing to issue accusational and threatening statements against the social and human rights leaders of the region. The Military also subjects the citizens of the area to checkpoints, censes and accusations that greatly worry the people of the region. At the end of 2009, Hurtado, as the elected head of a Human Rights delegation, publicly denounced the human rights violations in the area.
Please write to your Senators and Representatives demanding a stop of military aid to the Colombian Army and an investigation of the Colombian military.
Your Representatives in Congress: See the Action Center at our site: www.colombiasupport.net
ALSO WRITE TO THE FOLLOWING US OFFICIALS:
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs: Arturo Valenzuela : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Human Rights Director US Embassy Colombia: Carolyn Cooley: CooleyCN@state.gov
And write to officials in the Colombian Government demanding an investigation of those responsible for the assassination of Jhonny Hurtado and their prosecution :
-Ministerio de Defensa Asuntos Internacionales : email@example.com
-Oficina de Derechos Humanos, Ministerio de Defensa: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Oficina de Asuntos Internacionales de la Fiscalia: email@example.com
-Procuraduria General: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Statement concerning the grave threats against the Colombian Supreme Court
This information has been disseminated on 15mar10 by the Equipo Nizkor, Derechos Human Rights and Radio Nizkor.
On 4th March 2010, the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia informed the plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice that it had learned of a new plan to assassinate certain judges of that Court.
On the same day, the plenary of the Court released a communiqué in which it denounced the existence of a "strategy of threats" against it, as well as the "quiet apathy" of the other branches of the Colombian State, which, in such serious circumstances, cannot be considered as a "one-off episode", particularly given the importance of the proceedings currently taking place before the Court against politicians, paramilitaries and drug-traffickers for the commission of crimes against humanity in the country.
The Court called for the solidarity of civil society to defend both the work of the judges and the rule of law in Colombia, threatened once again by the acts of the so called "dark forces" who are seeking to impede the prosecutions of those responsible for serious crimes committed in Colombia.
In light of the above, we express our support to the Court at this time in respect of the threats and systematic aggression made against the highest tribunal of ordinary justice in Colombia, as we believe that the source of these are to be found in what we have described as the Executive Power´s attack against the Supreme Court of Justice.
[See this information in chronological order from May 2006 in the specialized page: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/justicia/justiciamain.html#cs]
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT OF THE SITUATION
1) Since 2005, the judges and investigators of the Supreme Court have been the objects of illegal espionage and actions of "offensive intelligence" by the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), the secret police of Colombia, which is hierarchically and functionally dependent on the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
These criminal actions against the Court coincided with the beginning of the investigations into congressmen, ex-congressmen, governors and other public servants in connection with their links to paramilitarism,(which in international law is known as participation in joint criminal enterprise), and which process has come to be known in Colombia as "para-politics".
2) In November 2006, the threatening calls began against the Court. At that time, the object of the insults and threats was one of the assistant judges of Judge Alfredo Gómez Quintero, of the Criminal Division.
3) In February 2007, the ex-president of the Court, Judge Yesid Ramírez Bastidas, received several threatening calls.
4) In May 2007, several judges of the Criminal Division received further threatening and intimidating calls.
5) In July 2007, when the Court issued an important judgement establishing precedent regarding the legal distinction between political crimes and crimes committed by the paramilitary groups, it was the target of strong verbal criticisms on the part of the president Álvaro Uribe, in an unprecedented confrontation between Colombian institutions.
6) Between September and October of 2007, following the investigation into the link between Senator Mario Uribe, first cousin of President Álvaro Uribe, and the "para-politics" process, a new plot against the Supreme Court was devised in the Casa de Nariño (presidential headquarters), by means of a paramilitary member known by the alias Tasmania, who would subsequently retract his accusations against the Court ( http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/ivan1.html ), and, in particular, against the assistant Judge Iván Velásquez, the principal investigator in this process.
7) In October 2007, anonymous callers threatened to detonate a bomb in the school of the daughter of María del Rosario González de Lemos, a judge of the Criminal Division, and it had to be evacuated. However, the Executive, and some of the state security organs continue today to express doubt as to the truthfulness of this threat, in spite of the fact that the Office of the National Procurator-General (Procuraduría General de la Nación - PGN) has established that it did in fact take place. Months later, Judge González's security vehicle was sabotaged.
8) In November 2007, the National Police, without justification, withdrew its protection service from assistant Judge Iván Velásquez, head of the investigative commission in the "para-politics" cases. Following protests from the Court, the service was reinstated.
9) In January 2008, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez filed a complaint alleging defamation by Judge César Julio Valencia Copete, the then President of the Supreme Court of Justice, for statements made in the newspaper "El Espectador", in a clear attack against judicial independence and freedom of expression.
10) On 10th April 2008, the Court, in accordance with international criminal law, held in a second instance judgement that an agreement to commit crimes for the purposes of paramilitarism constituted a crime against humanity.
11) In August 2008, senior officials of the Presidency of the Republic, including the legal secretary Edmundo del Castillo, and press secretary César Mauricio Velásquez, and several members of DAS, met in the presidential headquarters with spokesmen and members of the paramilitary, who since December 2007 sought to criminally prejudice the members of the Supreme Court for their investigations into the "para-politics" ( http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/paz/paras4.html ).
12) In September 2008, President Álvaro Uribe attacked the Supreme Court again, this time for having granted house arrest to the ex-congresswoman Yidis Medina, who confessed to having accepted favours and bribes from senior officials of the Executive in exchange for his favourable vote in the matter of re-election of the President. This generated new investigations against congressmen and state officials, proceedings which became known as "Yidis-politics" ("yidis-política"). For his part, the Minister of the Interior, Fabio Valencia, accused the then president of the Court, Francisco Ricaurte, of "acting in bad faith", for his criticisms of the project of justice reform, which aimed to create a "Super-Court" to investigate politicians and senior officials of the state.
13) In February 2009, the magazine "Semana" denounced the fact that the DAS had for several years been carrying out acts of espionage against high court judges, journalists, and opposition leaders.
14) In August 2009, the Court denounced fresh threats made against it, this time through an obituary sent to the then President of the Criminal Division, Judge Julio Enrique Socha Salamanca. It also discovered information regarding possible attacks against the judges. All this took place two months after the conviction of two ex-congressmen in connection with the so-called "yidis-política".
15) In September 2009, the Supreme Court of Justice issued a judgement regarding the crime of conspiracy to commit a crime for the purposes of paramilitarism, which they had previously held to constitute a crime against humanity, in the case of the so-called "para-politicians" ( http://www.radionizkor.org/colombia/#cch1 ). The Criminal Division determined, in accordance with international law, that the accused were members of a "criminal structure composed of a number of people who participate in a criminal organisation articulated around the principles of hierarchy and subordination", and that "those who took part, making use of their positions, are also criminally liable for the totality of crimes attributed to the commanders or chiefs of the blocks, fronts or units that make up the criminal association". This precedent will necessarily have an effect on the trials which are being heard in the Court against senior officials of the state and politicians, due to links with paramilitary groups. Nine out of ten of these officials and politicians are members of the coalition that brought Álvaro Uribe Vélez to the Presidency of the Republic.
16) Throughout the whole of 2009, unprecedented details were uncovered about the intelligence and counterintelligence carried out against the Supreme Court of Justice by the Group of National and International Observation and Verification (GONI), operating within DAS from 2005. It was ascertained, for example, that DAS closely monitored the routines of the magistrates, knew about their likes and weaknesses, the members of their family, and their closest circles of friends. It was also known that telephone interceptions of conversations between Judge Iván Velásquez and a senior official of the US Embassy were carried out by members of the National Police and the Office of the Attorney General.
17) Due to the threats and attacks made against the Supreme Court, three members of the Court, Judges María del Rosario González de Lemos, Julio César Valencia Copete and Iván Velásquez have been granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
18) Since December 2009, the Supreme Court of Justice has handed down further convictions in the so-called "para-politics" trials. On 3rd December 2009, the Court imposed a forty year prison term on the formerdepartmental Governor of Sucre and also former Colombian ambassador to Chile during the first Uribe Administration, Salvador Arana Sus, for the homicide of the former mayor of El Roble, Eudaldo Díaz in 2003. The court also certified copies of existing documents in order to investigate the former official for crimes against humanity committed by the paramilitary group of Rodrigo Mercado Pelufo, alias "Cadena".
19) On 15th December 2009, the former member of parliament Gonzalo García Angarita (Conservative party) was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his links to paramilitarism in the department of Tolima.
20) On 26th January 2010, the court sentenced the former senator Vicente Blel Saad to seven and a half years in prison for his links with the paramilitaries of the North Block, commanded by Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias Jorge 40, in the department of Bolívar.
21) On 27th January 2010, the court condemned two paramilitaries to prison terms of 40 and 20 years for the massacre of four indigenous members of the Kankuamo Indigenous People, and it ordered the Attorney General to investigate Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias Jorge 40 for these events. It also requested the rapid investigation into the assassinations of over 50 indigenous members of the Kankuamo Indigenous People since 2002.
22) On 1st February 2010, the court commenced proceedings against the former Director of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), Jorge Noguera Cotes, for the homicide of two trade unionists, a human rights defender and a journalist in 2003. In the context of these proceedings, the public has learned that DAS produced weekly reports about trade union activity to the President of the Republic, and that the former Deputy Director of DAS, Mr José Miguel Narváez - currently in prison and being prosecuted for directing and steering the unit within DAS that carried out illegal espionage against more than 300 people - was appointed by request of the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
23) On 2nd February 2010, the court sentenced the former member of parliament Dixon Ferney Tapasco to seven and a half years in prison for his links to paramilitary groups in the department of Caldas.
24) On 11th February 2010, the court ordered that the paramilitary Libardo Duarte, alias Bam-Bam be excluded from the exceptional jurisdiction of Law 975 of 2005, inappropriately named Justice and Peace law, on establishing that he had confessed to the commission of the crime of homicide after his "demobilization" from the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), and sent the case to ordinary justice, despite requests to the contrary made by the National Government and the Office of the Attorney General.
25) On 16th February 2010, the Supreme Court refused provisional release of the former President of the Congress of the Republic, the conservative Luis Humberto Gómez Gallo, who is to be tried for his links with paramilitaries and drug-traffickers in the department of Tolima.
26) On 17th February 2010, the court denied the extradition to the United States of the paramilitary chief Edwar Cobos Téllez, alias Diego Vecino, who is being investigated for the massacres of Manpujan and Las Brisas, in which 663 victims of forced displacement were proved, as well as 7 victims of hostage taking, 11 homicides and torture. The court, in the course of the extradition proceedings, considered that when the facts may constitute crimes against humanity, the commission of serious crimes under international criminal law must take precedence over crimes of drug-trafficking. [ See complete text of the court's decision at http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/vecino.html ]
27) On 23rd February 2010, the Court issued the maximum sentence of 40 years in prison to the former Senator Álvaro García Romero for conspiracy to commit crimes, embezzling for appropriation, and the homicide of eight people in the massacre of Macayepo, and concluded that the former congressman "in his position as representative of the people of Sucre before the legislature had an undoubted obligation to notify the authorities of the paramilitary incursion that he subsequently not only tolerated but supported, providing backing to this illegal armed group from some time back."
28) On 24th February 2010, the Supreme Court of Justice brought charges for conspiracy to commit crimes against the former Senator Mario Uribe Escobar, first cousin of the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, and one of his major allies throughout his political career. The Court considered that Mario Uribe Escobar took an active part in the plan of political expansion of paramilitarism, with the objective of obtaining "national representation via allies who, either coming for the first time to Congress, or already being there, would strengthen the realisation of his purposes." [ See complete text of the court's decision at: http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/mariou.html ]
29) Also on 24th February 2010, the court reaffirmed its decision that the so-called "false positives", that is, extrajudicial executions committed systematically by members of the armed forces, must be tried in the ordinary courts, and therefore declared null and void a judgement of a military court, remitting the proceedings to the Attorney General.
30) On 3rd March, various Colombian media sources reported that the Supreme Court of Justice had ordered the investigation of retired general and current ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Mario Montoya, for his alleged links with paramilitarism. However, court sources deny that this decision had taken place, and consider that this false report is part of a strategy of disinformation.
31) On 4th March 2010, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, published the report from her visit to Colombia in September 2009. In this report, the Rapporteur said she was "particularly disturbed by threats sent to the highest judicial authorities in the country", in reference to the attacks suffered by the Supreme Court of Justice.
IN LIGHT OF THESE FACTS, WE WISH TO STRESS THE FOLLOWING:
32) There is no doubt that the intimidating acts and systematic threats suffered by the Colombian Supreme Court for several years constitute part of a strategy which seeks to terrorize the highest court of justice. This Court has the duty to investigate and prosecute congressmen, former congressmen and senior officials of the state, in proceedings revealing the actions of a vast criminal enterprise which, since 2002, in alliance with drug-traffickers and paramilitaries, has taken control of large parts of the three branches of public power in Colombia.
33) In this context, we consider the Executive Power, headed by the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, responsible for the protection of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice and their families, and for anyfailure concerning their protection which results in materialisation of the grave threats to which the Court has been exposed.
34) At the same time as we express our support of the Supreme Court, we also hope that it does not abandon its search for truth and justice in the face of the serious facts which it investigates and judges. This is a challenge that the court must assume in accordance with national and international jurisprudence regarding cases that entail the application of the criminal characterization of crimes against humanity and the determination of individual criminal responsibilities for membership of a criminal organisation pursuant to the jurisprudence established in application of current international criminal law, and the application of the United Nations Convention against organised transnational crime.
35) In the particular case of the prosecution of Jorge Noguera, we call on the Supreme Court to guarantee the principle of publicity of the trial stage, and not to accede to the requests of the defence that the sessions be declared secret.
36) Equally, we request that the Court does not cede to the pressures of those who aim to keep secret those testimonies obtained in trial. Even if the sessions take place behind closed doors in exceptional cases, statements made during the sessions are, and must be, of public character. This is established in the Colombian Code of Criminal Proceedings and in international law provisions concerning human rights in the administration of justice.
In the case of information concerning judicial proceedings, the relationship between the right to freedom of expression and the foundations of a democracy includes effective access to the proceedings, to the trial process and the eventual judgement, especially important in a case representing the first proceedings against the Colombian intelligence system.
37) We request the government members of the European Union, and especially the Spanish government, to assume political and legal responsibility for having for years protected the structure established by President Uribe.
38) The reasonable grounds and the evidence arising from the proceedings concerning the counterintelligence system and from the proceedings against senators and representatives accused, charged and, in many cases convicted, show that this structure constitutes a "joint criminal enterprise".
39) It would have been impossible to keep these types of activities secret without the explicit, and often aggressive support of Spanish diplomacy, relying on a doctrinal justification of the fight against terrorism, which permits the de facto establishment of a state of exception in which the paramilitary and drug-traffickingorganisations assume, also de facto, the political control of the state.
40) We request the U.S. State Department to profoundly review its policy of cooperation known as "Plan Colombia", to modify it to meet international standards with respect to civil liberties and human rights and applicable international law, and to fundamentally and rationally revise its policies concerning the fight against drug-trafficking, which have been shown to be totally ineffective in the struggle against organised crime.
Similarly, the military forces deployed in Colombian soil should be withdrawn, and the military bases anticipated in the agreements endorsed with the Colombian executive should not be installed as these agreements do not meet the conditions set by domestic Colombian law and international law.
41) We ask those concerned to remember that the policies such as those carried out by the Spanish Foreign Ministry, with the necessary collaboration of the European Commission, and those carried out by the U.S. Department of State, violate the principles of non-interference recognised by the Charter of the United Nations - especially articles 2.4 and 2.7 - and as a consequence serve to strengthen what we describe as a "global state of exception", which casts doubt on the very existence of the organisation of the United Nations as it was conceived in the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco on 26th July 1945.
Charleroi, San Francisco and Bogotá, 8th March 2010
President of Equipo Nizkor and director of Radio Nizkor
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621
Tauramena The shame and the dignity
Friday, March 5, 2010
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Since January 22, 2010, workers for SAR ENERGY S.A., a contractor working for OCENSA, initiated a protest asking for better salary and labor conditions, and demanding recognition of the town of Tauramena that, little by little, was gaining sympathy in other sectors of the community to the point that great support was generated and great demonstrations of backing for the fairness of its claims occurred.
These workers have set an example of DIGNITY for themselves and their Casanare community for having initiated a legitimate struggle stating what they want for their group from a particular company. They understood and assumed the challenge not only to make labor rights accessible for all of the workers employed by the petroleum industry in the department, but also to extend the discussion of issues such as the environment, human rights, goods and services and social investment.
THE EFFORTS of the workers and community during the more than 30 days of strike obligated BP (also working through OCESA) to sit down and negotiate. This holds great significance and could change what has been a functional practice with only the interests of BP and its contractors in mind. In the past, the workers have been just another resource to exploit.
As a Tauramera town, we have a historic challenge and we cannot let up. We, MEN AND WOMEN LONGING FOR JUSTICE THAT WILL NOT LOSE HEART IN THE COMPROMISE OF SOCIAL MOBILIZATION, are called to participate in the discussions at the negotiations. Now is the moment for the workers and communities to come together in dialogue, with the goal of reaching a communally beneficial conclusion for the population.
The negotiations should be understood as the final stage of the mobilization. Participants should include all of the sectors of the department of Casanare, and of the country, that declare themselves uncomfortable with the injustice and arbitrariness that put resources that should be rationally used for the collective good at the hands of the commercial tyrants.
Going along with this course of action, on March 2, 2010 workers and communities met with BP to agree on the agenda, place, setup, participants, work mechanisms, logistics and other practical aspects of the negotiations following the agreement on February 23.
Nevertheless, it was not possible to approach and reach a consensus on all of the previously mentioned issues because the delegates of BP and OCENSA left the enclosure, unilaterally terminating the meeting. With the same RUDENESS the companies tried to dictate whom the speakers and delegates of the community would be. Without any SHAME, they presented an illegitimate document of attendance signatures, citing it as an act of accord between all parties, when it was never ratified by the community.
SHAME! They must begin to recognize the representatives of the community and the workers! They must recognize us, after 18 years of exploiting the Department and ignoring the demands of the Casanare community. They cannot continue mistreating and stepping on the DIGNITY of the inhabitants of this region.
Recognizing the importance and validity of the work that the Tauramena movement is developing, we must continue, we must unify, and we must organize ourselves. This will guarantee that we reach our objectives.
Perhaps we will not see our goal reached if we let the opportunity pass, abandoning the opportunity due to apathy or simple personal or group interests. There is much at stake. The ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW SOCIAL RELATIONS AND THE DIGNITY OF THE TOWN is at stake. Today you must place your confidence in the movement and you must not be disappointed by vain interests. We cannot continue to indulge the multinational corporations. It is crucial that you understand that we are reclaiming our universally recognized rights.
We will meet to construct together the course of action and contents of our demands in the negotiations:
SUNDAY, MARCH 7, AT 10:0 AM IN THE COURT IN THE VILLAS-TAURAMENA NEIGHBORHOOD.
FOR THE DIGNITIY AND GOOD OF ALL, LET US ORGANIZE AND BE UNIFIED
-Tauramenera Community, Workers’ Labor Union –USO-, COSPACC-
Tame Communities Abused by the National Army
By Communal Boards
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Members of the National Army have exhibited negative, aggressive and humiliating behavior toward the settlers.
We, members of the communities in the districts of Alto Cauca, La Hermosa, and La Horqueta, speak out to the public and private, local, departmental, national and international Human Rights defense institutions, and we denounce the acts which have occurred in the last few days in our communities. These acts have been carried out by the National Army members of the 5th Mobil Brigade, belonging to the Navas Pardo Batallion in the municipality of Tame. Members of the National Army have displayed negative, aggressive (verbally and physically) and humiliating behavior compromising the civil population, and have offered gifts to minors and special people. This situation has resulted in the following acts:
1. At approximately 1:00 pm on January 3, 2010, a confrontation occurred between the security forces and the guerillas in the La Hermosa hamlet in the municipality of Tame. During this confrontation Mr. Juan Gregorio was wounded, and a dwelling was burned. An explosive artifact fell on another dwelling. The security forces claimed responsibility for these acts.
2. On January 6th, 2010 at 12:00 pm, helicopters flew over the districts of La Hermosa and La Horqueta firing machine guns over the area, causing psychological trauma to children and inhabitants of the region.
3. On Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 10:00 am a young woman named Emilse Urive was detained in the indigenous community of Cano. Urive was retained for more than two hours during which they tried to carnally rape her, and they made her hold war objects of privative use to the armed forces so that they could video tape her making a forced declaration that she was an insurgent so that they could receive cash in exchange for her declaration.
4. On Friday, February 26, 2010 the National Army woke up in the dwelling in the educational center of the district of La Hermosa where, as is routine for the community, the monthly Assembly of the Communal Action Board was to be realized. The community was subjected to the drastic control of the Military. As the community was exiting the Assembly, they were all detained and endured verbal aggressions, threats and stigmatizations of the organized activities of the communities. During the detention, the Military demanded beers, which are very expensive to distribute. The demands were made through supposed informants that they use to repeat or speak of what the Military considers necessary. At 1:00 p.m. they released the community and the students went home. The Military fired various shots, traumatizing the children and settlers.
5. In the district of Alto Cauca and La Horqueta the Military have begun stationing themselves in populated centers and in their outskirts, and they even stay in the houses of families, placing the families at risk.
As a community we are concerned by the threats that have been verbally realized regarding the paramilitaries and the possible arrival of the Oxi to exploit the petroleum in the sector.
We make an urgent and timely call to the entities of justice and control to monitor the acts that have occurred in the sector and in its outskirts. We await their positive official correspondence and we hope that the security forces will take measures against these actions hostile to the rights of the population.
Social Organizations Appeal to the Constitutional Court
Social Organizations have declared the military bases agreement unconstitutional and unenforceable and ask for action from President Uribe.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Social organizations have declared unconstitutional and unenforceable the agreement between the governments of the Republic of Colombia and the United States. The agreement is beneficial for the technical defense and security assistance and the cooperation between the two governments. A group of social organizations has used citizen intervention to appeal to the Constitutional Court. The Lawyers Collective, organized by Jose Alvear Restrepo, is one of the participating organizations.
The citizen intervention asks the Court and the Accusations Commission of the Branch of Representatives to investigate the action of the President of the Republic and the ministers subscribing to the document.
According to the signatories of the intervention, the agreement goes against the principles of separation of powers and sovereignty. Within this agreement, the signatories do not find any consideration for the Colombian principles of reciprocity, equity, and national benefit, which are essential for international relations.
These concerns were recognized by the State Council that previously declared the Agreement costly and burdensome for Colombia and advised the Government to ratify the agreement through the constitutional proceedings already in place for the processing of international treaties. The State Council recommends that the Agreement should be approved through legal proceedings and should be reviewed by the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, the Government dismissed these political and legal recommendations of the State Council, and decided to unilaterally sign the Agreement, sidestepping the functions of the other branches of public power.
The document, signed on the 30th of November, 2009, between the governments of Colombia and the United States, has as a principal objective the authorization of unrestricted access of United States military forces, and other national agents of third party countries authorized by the United States, to seven Colombian military bases distributed through the entire national territory
This Agreement puts into place a set of measures that will benefit the United States personnel during their initial stay in Colombia of 90 days – a stay that can be indefinitely extended. The measures, all in favor of the United States, include the renunciation of a variety of Colombian military powers including migratory, fiscal, tributary, transit, and customs powers, and especially military, territorial and air rights.
Additionally, the Agreement establishes a regime of immunity exclusively for the civil diplomats, and benefits the United States military and their families. The Agreement authorizes the exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum without cost or license. As if this were not enough, the Agreement establishes a series of open measures that the countries will decide through implementation agreements. Therefore, some aspects of the signed Agreement are not yet known.
In addition to testing the legality of the Agreement, the intervention asks for all of the implementation agreements to be adopted before the date of implementation of the Military Bases Agreement. The intervention also demands that the State Council be allowed to further investigate their prior claims against the Agreement, and that the entities of the Public Ministry declare what manifestations of control they exerted during the negotiation of this Agreement.