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It is high time the Prosecutor's Office and he Government protected the victims in cases under Law 975

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Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 18

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It is high time the Prosecutor's Office and he Government protected the victims in cases under Law 975

  1. 1. COMISIÓN COLOMBIANA DE JURISTAS Con el apoyo de: Organización no gubernamental con status consultivo ante la ONU Filial de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas (Ginebra) y de la Comisión Andina de Juristas (Lima) P ERSONERÍA JURÍDICA: RESOLUCIÓN 1060, AGOSTO DE 1988 DE LA ALCALDÍA M AYOR DE BOGOTÁ Gobierno de CanadáBulletin No 18: Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975Important ruling by the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca IT IS HIGH TIME THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE AND THE GOVERNMENT PROTECTED THE VICTIMS IN CASES UNDER LAW 975The Ministry of the Interior and Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office must organize aprogram for the protection of the victims of paramilitaries being tried judicially through Law 975(of “justice and peace”). Said program must be ready by September 26, 2007, at the latest. Thusruled the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca last August 13, admitting a kind of writ ofinjunction (tutela action) introduced by a group of women and women’s organizations who putforward to the Tribunal the threats and grave risks these victims are constantly exposed to.Indeed, thousands of Colombian women –most of them peasant, Afro-Colombian, andindigenous women– have devoted their lives to demand that the possibility of knowing the truth,preserving memory and obtaining justice be more than mere concepts, be part of the reality of thecountry, and dignify the existence of those who inhabit it. However, according the NationalCommission on Reparation and Reconciliation (NCRR), at least 15 persons have lost their livesseeking restitution of their lands or trying to find out the whereabouts of their loved ones, and atleast 200 others have been threatened. 1 Among those killed under such circumstances in 2007 areYolanda Izquierdo-Berrío, Carmen Cecilia Santana- Romaña, Osiris Jacqueline Amaya-Beltrán,and Judith Vergara-Correa.Yolanda Izquierdo-BerríoOn January 31, 2007, in Montería (Córdoba), Yolanda Izquierdo-Berrío was assassinated on the terrace ofher home, presumably by paramilitaries of the United Self Defense Groups of Colombia (AutodefensasUnidas de Colombia - AUC). Her partner, Francisco Torregloza, was injured in the same events.Yolanda was a displaced peasant woman, the mother of five children. She was 49 years old, and as leaderof a grass-roots housing organization (Popular Organization of Housing, Organización Popular deVivienda) represented hundreds of peasant families who demanded the return of the lands from which theyhad been displaced by paramilitaries.On January 12, three days before the hearing continuing the confession or “free [voluntary] version” byparamilitary boss Salvatore Mancuso,2 the displaced persons were summoned before the Third NotaryPublic of Montería, where they were put under pressure by the paramilitaries to give up their claims to the*The European Union supported the first phase of this project, between July and December of 2006, during which this series ofinformation bulletins was begun and the first twelve numbers published, available on the web page. The present publication hasbeen prepared under the auspices of the Canadian government, and its content is the sole responsibility of the ColombianCommission of Jurists. In no way should it be thought to reflect the point of view of the European Union or of the government ofCanada.1 “Nueva rebelión de los ex ‘paras’ profundiza rezagos en reparación”, (New rebellion of the former “paras” deepens delays in reparations”), ElTiempo, July 25 2007, pages. 1-2.2 The “free version” proceedings are regulated by Article 17 of Law 975 of 2005. The first “free version” hearing by paramilitary boss SalvatoreMancuso took place on December 19, 2006. The continuation hearing was carried out on January 15, 2007. Calle 72 Nº 12-65 piso 7 PBX: (571) 3768200 – (571) 3434710 Fax: (571) 3768230 Email: ccj@coljuristas.org Website: www.coljuristas.org Bogotá, Colombia
  2. 2. land. However, Yolanda, who carried documents certifying ownership of the land by the peasants, did notback down and, on December 19, 2007, attended the “free-version” hearing of the paramilitary boss. Fromthat moment on, threats were made against her on the telephone, telling her to “get out of the way.”According to information provided by relatives of the victim, a few days before her assassination she hadrequested protection from the security authorities (Administrative Department of Security, DepartamentoAdministrativo de Seguridad - DAS) and the national police –protection that was never provided, with theconsequences described.With regard to the response to these events by the justice system, it is known that the GeneralProsecutor’s Office has issued three warrants for the arrest, with no possibility of parole orrelease from jail, against the alleged paramilitary Víctor Alfonso Rojas-Valencia, alias “Hawy”,declared absentee; against Sor Teresa Gómez-Álvarez, also declared absentee; and a third againstÁlvaro Augusto Murillo-Montes, now detained.But it is worth asking if, on the basis of the available information, the Prosecutor’s Office has aninvestigation hypothesis with respect to the person who could have given the order for YolandaIzquierdo’s assassination, if that person is among those who would benefit from sentence reductions underthe “justice and peace” law or if, in spite of the facts, that person will be awarded such benefits, goingagainst what that same law foresees. 3Carmen Cecilia Santana-RomañaOn February 7, 2002, in Apartadó (Antioquia), Carmen Cecilia Santana-Romaña was assassinated by agroup of non-identified combatants. The victim, 28 years old, was executed at three in the afternoon,while she was standing in front of her house with her children, 7, 9, and 14 years of age. Carmen Ceciliaheld the post of Complaints Commissioner of the National Union of Workers of the Agrarian Sector(Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sector Agrario - Sintrainagro).4According to a statement by the President of the Central Federation of Colombian Workers (CentralUnitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia - CUT), Carmen “had denounced the paramilitaries, had statedher case as victim of the paramilitaries, had made declarations against the paramilitaries, and that factcost her her life.” The victim was taking steps to request reparation for the crime against her husband,Marco Tulio Hernández, assassinated by paramilitaries on February 7, 1995, in Chigorodó (Antioquia).In November 2006, Carmen had held interviews with the National Commission of Reparation andReconciliation. The questions that Carmen asked the functionary of the Commission were related to hersecurity in case she denounced and claimed her rights before the justice system. The functionary later toldthe media: “She asked me for time to think it over one more time. At the end of December she let me knowshe had decided to make a complaint and that she had returned to her region.” 53 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR repudiates assassination of victim that sought reparation through Law of Justice andPeace in Colombia. Press release No. 4/07, Washington (IACHR), February 2, 2007; General Prosecutor’s Office, Tercer asegurado porhomicidio de la dirigente comunitaria Yolanda Izquierdo (Third suspect detained for homicide of community leader Yolanda Izquierdo),www.fiscalia.gov.co, consulted on September 4, 2007; “Medida de aseguramiento contra Víctor Alfonso Rojas dictó Fiscalía, por crimen deYolanda Izquierdo” (General Prosecutor’s Office issues arrest warrant against Victor Alfonso Rojas for crime of Yolanda Izquierdo), El Tiempo,May 3, 2007, in www.eltiempo.com4 At the moment of her death she was the partner of Hernán Correa, president of Sintrainagro and vice-president of the CUT.5 “Asesinan a otra víctima del conflicto en Apartadó”, (Another victim of the conflict assassinated in Apartadó) , El Tiempo, February 9, 2007,pages 1-5; “Matan a esposa de vicepresidente de CUT” (Wife of vice-president of CUT murdered), El Heraldo, February 9, 2007, inwww.elheraldo.com.co; “Otra víctima de paras asesinada no alcanzó a denunciar en Justicia y Paz”, (Another victim of ‘paras’ assassinated, did 2
  3. 3. The motive behind the attack against Carmen is not yet sufficiently clear. It is said that Carmen could havebeen attacked for having intended to make her case before the authorities as victim of the paramilitaries;but her crime may also be related to her activities as union leader or to her romantic relationship with thevice-president of the CUT, Hernán Correa Miranda. In any case, this crime is a consequence of the lack ofguarantees for the exercise of human rights, and of the fact that no measures have been taken to assurenon-repetition of the violation of such rights. It is the obligation of the justice system to shed light on theseacts and punish those who carried them out.Osiris Jacqueline Amaya-BeltránOn March 14, 2007, in Hatonuevo (Guajira), Ms. Osiris Jacqueline Amaya-Beltrán, member of a Wayúuindigenous community, was assassinated by paramilitary groups when she refused to keep paying the extortionshe was subjected to; she was kidnapped, raped, and her throat was cut by at least five men of the paramilitarygroup. The body of the victim was found in front of the bridge called ‘Gritador” on the road that leads from themunicipality of Hatonuevo to the hamlet of Cuestecita (La Guajira). Osiris was a teacher and was 36 yearsold.6Judith Vergara-CorreaOn April 23, 2007, in Medellín (Antioquia), Judith Vergara-Correa was assassinated, presumably by aparamilitary group. Judith was a community leader in Medellín’s 13th district (Comuna 13), member ofthe Polo Democrático Alternativo political party, and advisor of Madres de la Candelaria, an associationof families of forcibly disappeared persons. She was also part of the peace initiatives Network ofInitiatives for Peace and Against War (Red de Iniciativas por la Paz y contra la Guerra - Redepaz) andthe Civil Society Permanent Assembly for Peace (Asamblea Permanente de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz).Since 1998 she had been working on youth projects of the Corporation for Peace and Social Development(Corporación para la Paz y el Desarrollo Social - Corpades). Judith was the mother of four children aged16, 11, 13, and 7.The director of Corpades stated publicly: “Since 2005, before the demobilization of the Héroes deGranada block, she was detained by members of the group and then released with the message that theywere aiming to kill me and that Corpades had to go away. She worked with us and, since we are a target,these stupid minds singled her out.” Furthermore, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, inaddition to demanding an investigation and judgment of the perpetrators, pointed out that: “Ms. Vergara-Correa had been monitoring the ‘free version’ hearings carried out in Medellín in the framework of theapplication of the Law of Justice and Peace.” 7If justice and peace are to happen, the victims must be protectednot have time to denounce under Justice and Peace), El Tiempo, February 10 , 2007, pages 1-4; “La mentira de la desmovilización” (The lie aboutdemobilization), El Tiempo, February 12, 2007, pages. 1-15; “¿Revictimización de las víctimas?”, (Revictimization of the victims?), El Tiempo,February 12, 2007, pages 1-15.6 Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca, Fourth Section, Subsection A, Sentence of August 13, 2007, M.P. Stella Jeannette Carvajal Basto;“Hallan a docente degollada”, (Teacher found with throat slashed), El Heraldo, March 16, 2007, in www.elheraldo.com7 Inter-American Comission on Human Rights repudiates assassination of victim that sought reparation through Law of Justice and Peace inColombia, Press release No. 25/07, Washington (IACHR), April 30, 2007; “Investigan muerte de líder comunitaria de Medellín” (Death ofcommunity leader in Medellín being investigated), El Tiempo, April 24, 2007, pages. 1-20; “La Comuna 13 pierde otra líder a manos deviolentos” (Comuna 13 loses another leader to violent hands), El Colombiano, April 24, 2007, in www.elcolombiano.com; “Corpades reportaamenazas en día de sepelio de Judith” (Corpades report threats on the day of Judith’s funeral), El Colombiano, April 25, 2007, inwww.elcolombiano.com; “CIDH rechaza asesinato de líder de la Comuna 13”, (IACHR rejects assassination of Comuna 13 leader), El Tiempo,May 1, 2007, pages 1-4. 3
  4. 4. The assassination of these four women devoted to the defense of their rights is a serious symptomthat the Colombian State is not taking the necessary measures to protect the lives of the personswho have chosen to act within the judicial framework established for the negotiations. In spite ofthe process of negotiations with the government, paramilitary groups continue to violate the rightto life. From the beginning of the process, on December 1 2002, and until April 30, 2007, at least3,040 persons have been killed or disappeared out of combat by paramilitaries. 248 of them werewomen.The persistence of crimes against human rights defenders, community leaders, peasant men and women,and union members in the conditions described above implies too that Principle No. 37 recognized by theUnited Nations as one of the international principles in the fight against impunity, is not being observed.That principle is part of the right to reparation and states that, to that end, “para-State and non-officialarmed groups must be demobilized and dismantled.” 8All State entities competent in such matters must comply fully with the obligations mentioned. Itis important to keep in mind that Law 975 of 2005 sets the National Reparation andReconciliation Commission (NRRC) specific obligations regarding the protection of the victims.According to Article 51 of said law, the NRRC must “guarantee the victims’ participation injudicial clarification processes and the fulfillment of their rights” and must “monitor and verifyprocesses of reincorporation and the work of local authorities, in order to guarantee fulldemobilization of the members of illegal armed groups and the correct functioning of theinstitutions in those territories.”Unfortunately, attacks by the paramilitary groups have come to affect also one of the women whoare part of the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. On July 24, 2007, thewomen who make up the Working Group Women, Gender, for Truth, Justice, and Reparation, ina letter addressed to the President of the NRRC, expressed their concern because, in a pressrelease, a group of “demobilized” paramilitaries disqualified and tried to intimidateCommissioner Ana Teresa Bernal.In the presence of such acts, the president of the NRRC remarked that the Commission “does not acceptthe intimidation of its members.” In a letter addressed to the “Spokesmen of the National Movement ofDemobilized Self Defense Groups and Corporation Democracy”, dated July 27, 2007, the president of theNRRC stated: “The present letter aims to express my consternation at the press releases you have sent themedia regarding the opposition shown by the Commissioner Ana Teresa Bernal to the acts ofreconciliation you were preparing during the recent ‘free version’ hearing of Diego Fernando Murillo-Bejarano (Don Berna)”.The Commissioner, designated by the President as representative of civil society, was showing heropposition to the “act of reconciliation” because through it, the victims were being intimidated, andbecause the victims themselves expressed that they were afraid to “offend those gentlemen and run therisk of being threatened or of never finding out the whereabouts of their loved ones.” 98 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Promotion and protection of human rights. Impunity , Economic and Social Council., 61°period of sessions, doc. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1, February 8, 2005, principle n.° 35. See in : Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), Principiosinternacionales sobre impunidad y reparaciones, Compilación de documentos de la Organización de Naciones Unidas, Bogotá, CCJ, January,2007, p. 51.9 Letter addressed to the Colombian Commission of Jurists by Commissioner Ana Teresa Bernal. 4
  5. 5. All these aggressions demonstrate the imperative need to comply with the international principleson the struggle against impunity, formulated by the United Nations, according to which “theState must adopt adequate measures so the victims will not once again be the subject ofviolations of their rights. To that end, the States must carry out institutional reforms and othermeasures necessary to guarantee respect for the rule of law, to promote and preserve a culture ofrespect for human rights, and to restore or establish public trust in the institutions of thegovernment.” 10Beyond complying with the specific articles that require protective measures for victims andwitnesses in the framework of the judicial process of Law 975 of 2005, the State must assumewith all seriousness guarantees of non repetition of the violations of human rights and ofinternational principles and norms seeking to overcome impunity, as the only appropriate way togive peace a solid and lasting foundation. Because it has not done so until now, theAdministrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca, in its tutela ruling of August 13, 2007, is remindingthe State to do it. The Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of the Interior and Justice cannot goon evading their obligation to protect the victims and, to that effect, must prepare a protectionplan complying with the decision of the Tribunal by September 26, 2007, at the latest.Bogotá, September 7, 200710 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Promotion and protection of human rights. Impunity. , Economic and Social Council., 61°períod of sessions, doc. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1, February 8, 2005, principle n.° 35. See in : Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), Principiosinternacionales sobre impunidad y reparaciones, Compilación de documentos de la Organización de Naciones Unidas, Bogotá, CCJ, January,2007, p. 49. 5