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Witness named at “free-version” hearing assassinated
Witness named at “free-version” hearing assassinated
Witness named at “free-version” hearing assassinated
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Witness named at “free-version” hearing assassinated

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Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 20

Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 20

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  • 1. COLOMBIAN COMMISSION OF JURISTS Non-governmental Organization with UN Consultative Status International Commission of Jurists (Geneva) and Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima) Affiliate LEGAL CORPORATE ENTITY: RESOLUTION 1060, AUGUST 1988 BOGOTA MAYOR’S OFFICEBulletin No 20: Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975 Witness named at “free-version” hearing assassinatedToward 11:30 on the morning of October 9, 2007, a father asked the paramilitary José GregorioMangones Lugo, alias “Carlos Tijeras” about the disappearance of his son, which took place inJanuary 2004 in the municipality of Ciénaga (Department of Magdalena). Alias “Tijeras,”(meaning “Scissors” in Spanish) who was testifying at a “free-version” hearing that day, wascommander of the William Rivas Front of the North Block of the AUC-ACCU, operating in themunicipalities of Ciénaga, Aracataca, Zona Bananera, and Fundación, among other municipalitiesof the Department of Magadalena.In his answer, alias “Tijeras” denied having had anything to do with that disappearance, althoughhe acknowledged that he had met the victim at a video shop he frequented. Not satisfied with theanswer, the father of the victim of disappearance requested the Prosecutor to ask the paramilitaryabout the husband of the owner of the video shop, since, in his opinion, that person could haverelevant information to shed light on the events. “Carlos Tijeras” said he knew who was thatperson and pointed out that his name was Edgardo; he added that on occasion he would go to thevideo shop, sit there awhile and rent some films, but he rejected the idea that that person mighthave any knowledge of the facts.On that same day, toward 3:00 p.m., in the municipality of Ciénaga (Magdalena), EdgardoSandoval Ruiz, owner of the video shop, was assassinated with several gun shots by two mendriving by on a black, high-cylinder motorcycle. The deed took place in the presence of thevictim’s wife, at the door of the shop, as she was waiting on a customer.Other cases, such as that of Yolanda Becerra, director of the Popular Women’s Organization(Organización Femenina Popular, OFP) and member of the Workers’ Space for Human Rights(Espacio de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores por los Derechos Humanos) in the city ofBarrancabermeja, confirm the dangers involved in participating in the legal proceedings againstthe paramilitaries. On September 16, 2007, in the city of Medellín (Antioquia), in the course of a“free-version” hearing by paramilitary commander alias “Julián Bolívar” before the Justice and PeaceUnit of the General Prosecutor’s Office, this commander made aggressive remarks againstYolanda Becerra.On November 4, 2007, in the city of Barrancabermeja (Santander), nearly two months after thetestimony of this infamous paramilitary commander, two armed, hooded men dressed in civilian*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. 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. clothes burst into the apartment of Yolanda Becerra Vega, threatened her with a firearm and beather.These acts took place at 7:30 a.m., when the two men pushed the door open and beat Yolanda,thrusting her against the wall. One of them held her at gunpoint and the two said to her: “Youbitch, it’s over for you. You have 48 hours to leave. Otherwise, we are going to finish off yourfamily. You won’t get away from us.” In the following quarter of an hour that the two menremained at Yolanda Becerra Vega’s domicile, they searched the apartment and destroyed herbelongings. On their way out they tried to take a computer, which they finally left lying at theentrance of the apartment.The publicly-known risk situation faced by the victims and witnesses participating in theproceedings under Law 975 of 2005 caused the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal to orderthe General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of the Interior and Justice, through a tutelasentence dated August 13, 2007, and at the request of an important group of women belonging tothe Women’s Initiative for Peace (Iniciativa de Mujeres por la Paz, IMP), to adopt a program forthe protection of the victims who take part in the proceedings regulated by Law 975 of 2005.On September 18, 2007, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice issued Decree 3570, creating the“Program for the Protection of Victims and Witnesses of Law 975 of 2005.” Said decree compelsthe National Police, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice (Human Rights Section), and theGeneral Prosecutor’s Office to take measures to ward off the risks faced by the victims andwitnesses due to their participation in the legal processes under Law 975 of 2005.The measures adopted in the framework of this regulatory decree are temporary and require fortheir application the preparation of a risk map of the municipalities affected by threats, seeking toprioritize those to be favored by the measures. A technical team will evaluate the risks and, if itconsiders it relevant, will authorize measures for each of the cases in which state protection willbe provided.The assassination of Edgardo Sandoval and the attack against Yolanda Becerra indicate that themeasures established in the program for the protection of victims and witnesses under Law 975 of2005 are inadequate for providing the necessary security conditions in order to guarantee theirparticipation in the trials under Law 975 of 2005. It is likely that neither Edgardo nor Yolanda, asnew victims of sociopolitical violence in Colombia, would have imagined that they would have toseek the protection of the state and that, to that end, they would need to make a request in thatsense.The risks run by the victims who try to demand their rights in the trials under Law 975 areevident, and numerous fatal victims are testimony of it. The measures adopted through Decree3570 of 2007 are insufficient, as will be any protective measures adopted by the state concerningthe risks derived from the application of Law 975 of 2005 if the paramilitary structures in thecountry are not effectively dismantled first. As long as paramilitarism remains alive and active,the entire Colombian population will remain unprotected against the supposedly demobilized 2
  • 3. paramilitaries, and the greatest dangers will be faced by the victims and witnesses linked to Law975.For more information, please contact Gustavo Gallón-Giraldo, Director of the CCJ, at Tel. (571) 376 8200, Ext. 115.Bogotá, December 3, 2007 3

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