Judging from its first charges under Law 975, the Prosecutor’s Office does not want to, or is unable to, shed light on the responsibility of the paramilitaries

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Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 25

Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 25

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  • 1. Con el apoyo de: COMISIÓN COLOMBIANA DE JURISTAS Organización no gubernamental con estatus consultiv o ante la ONU Filial de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas (Ginebra) y de la Comisión Andina de Juristas (Lima) Gobierno de PERSONERÍA JURÍDICA: RESOLUCIÓN 1060, AGOSTO DE 1988 DE LA ALCALDÍA MAYOR DE BOGOTÁ CanadáBulletin No 25: Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975 Judging from its first charges under Law 975, the Prosecutor’s Office does not want to, or is unable to, shed light on the responsibility of the paramilitariesOn January 20, 2008, ten months after the imputation hearing, 1 the formal hearing ofsubmission of charges took place against the paramilitary member Wilson SalazarCarrascal, alias “el Loro” (“the Parrot”), the first such event to take place as part of theproceedings regulated by Law 975. The accusation by the Prosecutor’s Office is so lackingin seriousness that it constitutes a violation of the rights of the victims to truth, justice andreparation; and it foretells future impunity even greater than that worked out for the crimescommitted by this paramilitary and by those who will follow him in these proceedings.Of the legal processes carried out against the paramilitaries who negotiated with thegovernment, the one that has progressed the most is the one taking place against thisperpetrator known as “el Loro.” He was the first paramilitary to give “free version”testimony and the first who will go on to the Justice and Peace tribunals to be given areduced sentence, between five and eight years in prison, for all the crimes againsthumanity he may have committed. The process of “el Loro” is a good example of the adagethat says that what begins badly ends badly.On December 13, 2006, alias “el Loro” began giving “free version” testimony. Throughoutthe hearings, he confessed to only two crimes of importance. The first was the assassinationof Ms. Aída Cecilia Lazo Gemada, a member of the political party Unión Patriótica and acandidate to the mayoralty of the municipality of San Alberto (Cesar), and of her thirteen-year old daughter. The second was the assassination of Mr. Luis Alberto Piña in themunicipality of Gamarra (Cesar).Regarding the first case, alias “el Loro” was unable to say how the acts took place andcontradicted both the contents of the autopsy and the declarations of another paramilitarywho stated that they had planned to kill Aída Cecilia Lazo with blows so it would appear to*The European Union supported the first phase of this project, between July and December of 2006, during which thisseries of information bulletins was begun and the first twelve numbers published, available on the web page. The presentpublication has been prepared under the auspices of the Canadian government, and its content is the sole responsibility ofthe Colombian Commission of Jurists. In no way should it be thought to reflect the point of view of the European Unionor of the government of Canada.1 The imputation hearing took place on March 20, 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. be a personal conflict and avoid that the investigations would lead to the AUC; but theychanged plans when the daughter came to the defense of her mother as she was beingbeaten by the paramilitaries. At that moment they decided to shoot both of them. 2 That is,everything seems to indicate that “el Loro3”’s confession with regard to these two seriouscrimes is false and aims to cover up the true perpetrators of this atrocious assassination.However, the Prosecutor’s office seems to have given no thought to the fact that alias “elLoro” did not know the exact circumstances in which the act was committed. “Theimportant thing is that he confessed,” said the prosecutor at one point. 4As to the second case “confessed,” that of Luis Alberto Piña, alias “el Loro” had alreadybeen sentenced to 19 years in prison by ordinary justice, a sentence that could be reduced tofive years by virtue of the “justice and peace” law.The scarce acts confessed by “el Loro”, who was a member of paramilitary groups for morethan a decade, not only contradict evidence that he lied about the acts he actually confessedbut also indicate convincingly that he did not confess all the crimes for which he isresponsible. It is hardly credible that such a paramilitary would spend all that time incontemplation, when these groups were created to kill people and especially to assassinatecivilians that they considered – with or without reason – had links with the guerrilla.During one of the “free-version” sessions, a victim present at a near-by hall fitted out by theProsecutor’s Office so the victims could hear what “el Loro” had to say, reported that in theearly morning of December 29, 2000, alias “el Loro,” together with 50 other men, burstinto the Siete de Agosto neighborhood of the municipality of Carmen de Bolívar (Bolívar),killing people and holding up stores. At least four people had been assassinated thatmorning and two more had been disappeared. Together with another person, the victim hidinside a water storage tank so she would not be discovered and could save her life, but laterhad to flee so nothing worse would happen to her and became forcibly displaced.Besides the three homicides he confessed to (Aída Cecilia Lazo, her daughter, and LuisAlberto Piña), after completing the investigation phase the Prosecutor’s office accused himof homicide and tentative aggravated homicide against the citizens Miguel Barberi andDavid Barbosa, which took place on March 9, 2004, in the municipality of Aguachica(Cesar), and the homicide of Mr. Héctor Gómez Tapias, which occurred on January 5,1997.2 “El ‘Loro’, primer ‘para’ juzgado” [‘El Loro’, the first ‘para’ tried], El Tiempo, January 28, 2008.3 See Colombian Commission of Jurists, Bulletin No. 13: A one-act farce: The first opening declaration (“free version”)under Law 975 - “The Circumstances Don’t Matter As Long As He Confesses,” Bogotá, March 1, 2007.www.coljuristas.org. 2
  • 3. The investigation against “el Loro” was practically concluded with the hearing ofsubmission of charges against him; what remains pending now are reparation andsentencing. During the hearing of submission of charges against “el Loro”, the Prosecutiondid not include the non-confessed homicides it charged him with on March 20, 2000,during the imputation hearing, which is a preliminary procedure prior to the investigationphase. Nor was he charged for the massacre of Carmen de Bolívar, narrated by the victimmentioned above who was present at the “free-version” hearing. Nor did the Prosecutionfind any other crimes to charge him with.But it did charge him with the crime against Aída Cecilia Lazo, about which serious doubtsexist whether he actually committed it. And, more serious than that: having charged himwith this crime, he was not charged with the torture committed during the same incident -the barbaric way in which the victim and her thirteen-year old daughter were assassinated;who, according to the autopsy and what was said by other paramilitaries, were brutallybeaten before being killed. The Prosecutor’s office believed the contradictory declarationsby alias “el Loro” rather than the expert opinion of the Institute of Legal and ForensicMedicine. As a result, the torture inflicted upon Aída Cecilia Lazo will remain, as it hassince before the trial, unpunished.Wilson Salazar Carrascal, alias “el Loro,” confessed to having been a member of theparamilitary for twelve years. Common sense would indicate that it is hardly believablethat in all that time he committed no other crimes than the homicides of Aída Cecilia Lazo,her 13-year old daughter, Luis Alberto Piña, Miguel Barberi, David Barbosa and HéctorGómez Tapias, as well as false testimony and extortion. Through this type of accusations,the Prosecution is transmitting – in the best-case scenario – a message of ineptitude ininvestigating and shedding light on the truth which borders on naivety, if not outrightcomplicity with the paramilitaries.The case of Wilson Salazar Carrascal, which most probably will be the first to concludewith sentencing, began with serious irregularities that make it difficult to bring satisfactionto the victims in terms of their rights to truth, justice, and reparation. The flawed beginningof the trial against “el Loro” seems to be leading to a flawed ending, which foretells aflawed execution also of the processes to be carried out regarding the rest of theparamilitaries subject to Law 975. If Colombian society and the international communitydo not do something about this soon and in a determined manner so the Colombian stateshows political will and investigative and accusatory capacity with regard to theparamilitary beneficiaries of the “justice and peace” law, it will prove very difficult, if notimpossible, to overcome the serious human rights crisis affecting Colombia - which tendsto worsen due to the very high levels of violations of human rights and humanitarian lawand of impunity.Bogotá, March 7, 2008For more information, please contact Gustavo Gallón-Giraldo, Director of the CCJ, at Tel. (571) 376 8200, Ext. 115. 3