Victims stigmatized in hearing against 'Julián Bolívar' - Paramilitary Commander of the Bloque Central Bolívar
Justicia y Paz
Thursday, February 10, 2011
(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.)
Leader of this para's victims maintains they continue to be stigmatized in Justice and Peace proceedings.
One of the weaknesses of the Justice and Peace Law is that the victims' versions are disregarded. Photo VerdadAbierta.com
The indignation was written on Magdalena Calle Londoño's face. In silence, she made no secret of what it caused her to hear the victims named, among them her husband, and listen to the justifications given by the former paramilitary vigilante to explain their deaths: "guerrilla informers, rustlers, drug peddlers, neighborhood thieves, highway robbers, receivers of stolen livestock...".
In the courtroom, the victims contained themselves throughout the nearly three hours of the third arraignment session against , former chief of the Bloque Central Bolívar of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), held on Wednesday in Medellín, before judge Álvaro Cerón Coral, tasked with assuring constitutional guarantees.
During the hearing, the prosecutor, Fiscal 41 of the Justice and Pease Unit, Ana Fenney Ospina Peña, accused 'Bolivar' of the crime of aggravated homicide for events in the municipality of Yarumal, North Antioquia, during 1997 and 1998, at which time he led an illegal armed group there known as "the Pérez group", which left 22 people, men, women and minors dead.
During the proceedings, the official read the cases one by one, giving the victim's name and occupation, the date of the event, how the deaths occurred and the confessions the accused had made months earlier in voluntary depositions.
One of the details that most outraged Magdalena is that Fiscal 41 of the Justice and Peace Unit described each case exclusively in terms of the justifications given by the former paramilitary to explain each murder, giving no prominence to the victims' families' statements, as was the case with her husband, Alonso Jaramillo López, murdered on September 19, 1997, in the rural zone of Yarumal.
This the official reported as follows: Jaramillo López "was detained by Roberto Velásquez, alias 'Tolima,' and taken to the farm, Finca Los Urales, located in the Llanos de Cuivá district of the municipality of Yarumal, where he was interrogated intensely about his alleged connections with subversive activities. These he at first denied, but finally acknowledged them as a result of the bullet wound he received in one leg. After this, Velásquez murdered Mr. Jaramillo by shooting him several times and ordered patrolman Raúl Machado Rovira to make sure the corpse disappeared, which he did by burying it in a trench."
According to Magdalena, what is being done during these hearings is to re-victimize the people who were murdered: "The cases are not being detailed completely, and that leaves us vulnerable and makes our families victims once again".
Magdalena – who represents the organization Mothers for Life (Madres por la Vida) in North Antioquia, as a member of the Antioquia Department Victims' Round Table (Mesa Departamental de Víctimas de Antioquia) and its offices in Yarumal – was constantly surprised when the case reports were read, and particularly at how they were being explained.
For example, with regard to Alonso Arango Madrigal, who was murdered on February 23, 1997, the prosecutor declared: "According to Rodrigo Pérez Alzate, the deceased acted under instructions given to him as an informer of the ELN battlefront, Frente Héroes de Anorí."
In the case of Luis Gonzalo Cuartas, a driver who was killed on March 11, 1997, the prosecutor reported that "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses that he ordered him killed on the basis of the information he received identifying the victim as a rustler."
Isaura Arenas Montoya, a housewife with various occupations, was bludgeoned to death on March 8, 1997 in the yard of her home. In her case, the prosecutor referred to the ex-paramilitary's confession, saying that "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate declares that this deceased followed instructions given her as a member of the gang known as Los Escorpiones and as proprietress of a drugs outlet."
A similar justification was given in the case of Alberto Zapata Patiño, a pupil at the high school Liceo San Luis, who also worked at the local sanitary landfill and was murdered on May 30, 1997: "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses this killing because the victim was a member of the gang Los Escorpiones, which specialized in holdups of buses and trucks."
Another case that left Magdalena indignant was the murder of José Paternina Ruíz and Jorge Castaño on May 31, 1997. They were travelling from the municipality of Medellín to Llanos de Cuivá on public transport, a bus of the company Coonorte. On the way they were detained by armed men and murdered minutes later.
According to the prosecutor, "Rodrigo Pérez Alzate confesses that he ordered Paternina and Castaño to be killed because he received information that they sympathized and collaborated with the ELN unit Héroes de Anorí".
To Magdalena, "when the cases are presented like this, the victims of Yarumal are stigmatized as being guerrillas, drug addicts, whatever else. Nobody mentions that they were innocent." She talks about the case of José Paternina Ruíz and Jorge Castaño, whom she knows about because there are relatives of both in the women's group she leads: "they were not collaborators with the guerrilla; what he said is untrue."
In this connection, a lawyer representing several victims, who asked for his name to be withheld, agreed with Magdalena's objections and explained that the Justice and Peace Law "is political in origin and was drafted too hastily." In his opinion, "it does not seek solutions that actually lead to the real truth being discovered." One of its failings, he argues, "is that it does not characterize the victims in any depth, and thus makes them doubly victims."
After attending the arraignment, Magdalena was left in no doubt that the lack of balance in this kind of hearing, where no mention is made of the versions given by the victims' relatives, is one of the major weaknesses of the Justice and Peace Law: "we are relegated to the background and are at a disadvantage," she said, quickly leaving the courtroom.
... The victims and their families are, and continue to be, alone in this struggle.... You just have to go to the hearings....
NANCY FIALLO ARAQUE
Asamblea de Mujeres de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz
móvil: (57) 300 823 66 34
Bogotá. DC- Colombia- Sur América
Campaña Defensores Colombia