Justice in Colombia first, extradition later


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Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975. Bulletin No 28

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Justice in Colombia first, extradition later

  1. 1. COMISIÓN COLOMBIANA DE JURISTAS Organización no gubernamental con estatus consultivo ante la ONU Filial de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas (Ginebra) y de la Comisión Andina de Juristas (Lima) PERSONERÍA JURÍDICA: RESOLUCIÓN 1060, AGOSTO DE 1988 DE LA ALCALDÍA MAYOR DE BOGOTÁBulletin No 28: Series on the rights of the victims and the application of Law 975 Justice in Colombia first, extradition later Before being extradited, alias “HH” and the remaining paramilitaries should conclude their processes before Colombian justiceThe general rule in the “free-version” confession hearings carried out in the framework ofLaw 975 of 2005 is that paramilitaries that are rendering their testimonies are notcontributing to shed light on the truth. Many of them are justifying their crimes, defendingthe misdeeds they committed, denying their participation in the acts being investigated bythe Prosecutor’s Office, and they are not revealing the links between the paramilitarystructures and various sectors of society.However, an exception to this rule is the paramilitary boss Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,”who invoked Law 975 of 2005 and is offering free-version testimony since October 29,2007. This paramilitary is probably the one who has contributed most to the truth about thecrimes committed by paramilitarism. However, notwithstanding the victims’ expectationsregarding the testimony that this paramilitary still has to render, as well as the workawaiting the Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation of the crimes confessed by ÉverVeloza, a latent obstacle arises: the possible extradition of this paramilitary boss to theUnited States in the coming days.Indeed, this past May 7, the national Government set a precedent when it decided toextradite the leader of the paramilitary block Bloque Central Bolívar, Carlos Mario JiménezNaranjo, alias “Macaco” and, one week later, on May 13, extradited 14 more candidates forspecial treatment under Law 975 of 2005, among them several paramilitary bosses such asSalvatore Mancuso, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40”, or Hernán Giraldo Serna, alias“El Patrón.” In the specific case of Éver Veloza, alias “HH,” this implies that if theSupreme Court decides to rule favorably for the extradition of this paramilitary, theGovernment, coherent with its previous decisions, will extradite him to the United Statesand exclude him from the possibility of being judged and punished by the Colombianjustice system.The concession of extradition to any member of the paramilitary presently postulated underLaw 975 of 2005 is a source of concern since, through it, the rights of the victims arethoroughly disregarded and the capacity of the Colombian judicial system to do justice isignored. However, this concern becomes more urgent when the request for extradition Calle 72 Nº 12-65 piso 7 Tel: (571) 3768200 – (571) 3434710 Fax : (571) 3768230 Email : ccj@coljuristas.org Website: www.coljuristas.org Bogotá, Colombia
  2. 2. 2hovers over a member of the paramilitaries who is in effect revealing important facts thatcould eventually contribute to the right of the victims and society to the truth. 1.Indeed, this paramilitary boss has made important revelations regarding the close linksbetween paramilitarism and the political, economic, and military sectors. Likewise, alias“HH” has accepted responsibility for committing multiple crimes in the Urabá region andin the Department of Valle del Cauca – areas that were under his command – and he hasadmitted, as few of those who confessed have done, that the paramilitaries committedcrimes such as forced displacement, recruitment of boys and girls, forced disappearances,and massacres.In concrete terms, Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” has mentioned General Rito Alejo delRío as one of the promoters of paramilitarism in Urabá. In the same sense he referred toColonel Bayron Carvajal, about whom he stated that the Colonel not only promoted andcollaborated with paramilitarism but also that he threatened to kill him, alias “HH,” if hecontinued to make accusations against him.Likewise, this paramilitary leader asserted in his free-version testimonies that theentrepreneurial banana-producing sector in Urabá made important financial contributions toparamilitarism, and that the money was channeled through the so-called “Convivir”associations. Regarding the “Convivir” organizations, Éver Veloza stated that they all werepart of the paramilitary groups or were at their service.2 He referred in particular to theConvivir “Papagayo,” which had its headquarters behind the 12 th Army Brigade in themunicipality of Carepa (Antioquia) in the region of Urabá. Regarding this Convivir, alias“HH” not only stated that it was the channel for the movement of funds from the bananaproducing enterprises to the paramilitary, but also that its legal representative, ArnulfoPeñuela – who until recently was mayor of the municipality of Carepa, until theProsecutor’s Office decided to open an investigation against him for his links withparamilitarism – is not only a collaborator of paramilitarism but is part of the core of theparamilitary structure.Alias “HH” even asserted that it was Peñuela who introduced him to the members of theArmy’s 17th Brigade when he first arrived in the area. Also, he stated that he himselfsuggested to Raúl Hazbún, another Urabá paramilitary boss, that Peñuela should take partin the demobilization ceremony of the Banana Block, but that Vicente Castaño was againstPeñuela’s “demobilization” since Peñuela, in spite of being part of the paramilitarystructure, was legally protected because he was acting within the framework of the“Convivir” organizations, which by then had been legalized.1 In this same sense, see the article by Jimena Duzán, ¿Quién le teme a HH? (Who’s afraid of HH?), inSemana Magazine, July12, 2008. Available at www.semana.com2 See in this respect Colombian Commission of Jurists, series of bulletins on the Rights of the victims and the application of Law 975 of2005, “Todas las convivir eran nuestras” (“All the Convivir were ours” ) Bulletin 27. See in www.coljuristas.org.
  3. 3. 3In his free-version testimony, Éver Veloza also singled out other politicians as promoters orbeneficiaries of paramilitarism. One of his most revealing confessions refers to theGovernor of Cauca, Juan José Chaux. Regarding this politician, Éver Veloza declared thatChaux had obtained the support of the Calima Block of the AUC to win the elections forthe governorship of Cauca and that, in addition, he had been present at a “paramilitarysummit meeting” in which recognized paramilitary leaders took part. Regardingparamilitary intervention in the elections, Éver Veloza stated that they had sufficientinfluence in the communities to force electors to vote for any given candidate: “(…) weforced the communities to vote – not at the moment when the elections took place, it wassomething that we worked on much earlier; but we had influence in the communities andthey had to agree with what we thought and what we said. They didn’t give us money, sincewe had money coming in anyway, but they asked for votes.”3Furthermore, Éver Veloza has perhaps been the only paramilitary boss who has recognizedand acknowledged that paramilitary groups committed various types of crimes as part oftheir war strategy and as part of a policy within the paramilitary organization. Among suchcrimes, alias “HH” acknowledged that forced disappearance of persons was a strategy thatthe paramilitaries began using in Urabá and was later extended to the rest of the country.Additionally, he declared that the practice of disappearing people had been the idea ofmembers of the State security forces, specifically of General Rito Alejo del Río, who had aparticular interest in lowering the registered number of deaths that had been occurring inthe Urabá region.Éver Veloza also acknowledged in one of his testimonies that the paramilitary groupsmilitarily persecuted union members, and asserted that the crimes against such personswere in certain cases due to the antagonism that the paramilitaries felt toward the ideas orthe political thought of the unionists. In another one of his declaration, Veloza stated thatthe paramilitary groups that operate in Urabá persecuted the union of banana workers(Sintrainagro) to such an extent, that the affiliates of the union “lost in one year all thebenefits for which they fought their whole lives.”4 For that reason, Éver Veloza did nothesitate to affirm that those most favored by the conflict that took place in the Urabá regionwere the entrepreneurs.Something similar occurred with the members of the Unión Patriótica (UP) political partywho, according this paramilitary leader, were assassinated because of their politicaltendencies and not for their alleged membership in the FARC guerrilla.Likewise, alias “HH” has stated that it would be a lie to maintain that there was no forcedrecruitment of boys and girls. According to him, the recruitment of children was a policythat reached national level, since boys and girls were useful to them “because they could go3 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” July 9, 10 and 11, 2008.4 Ibíd.
  4. 4. 4unnoticed and do intelligence work.”5 Besides, he added, it was impossible for thecommanders of paramilitary blocks or fronts not to have known that there were boys orgirls in their ranks, as some have insisted.He referred in this same sense to the crime of forced displacement, remarking that thedisplacement that thousands of persons were victims of as a result of paramilitary violencewas not an effect of the conflict, as other paramilitaries rendering testimony have tried topresent it, but rather that paramilitary groups generated displacements as part of their warstrategy.Furthermore, Éver Veloza, alias “HH,” has provided information that is valuable forshedding light on crimes about which, although he did not participate in them directly, hedid have some knowledge due to his close relationship with the Castaño brothers. Such isthe case of the declarations that he made about the assassination of the well-known politicalhumorist, Jaime Garzón, about whom alias “HH” said that he was executed by the gangknown as La Terraza by order of Carlos Castaño as a favor requested by the “high militarycommand.” This same closeness to the Castaño brothers allowed Éver Veloza, during hismost recent free-version declaration, to hand over a USB memory drive owned by CarlosCastaño containing, according to Veloza himself, e-mails between Carlos Castaño andother paramilitary bosses such as Salvatore Mancuso, Freddy Rendón Herrera, alias “elAlemán” and Iván Roberto Duque, alias “Ernesto Báez.” Likewise, alias “HH” declaredthat the UBS memory device contains Carlos Castaño’s testament and promised to handover to the authorities the personal computer of the paramilitary commander.It is true that Éver Veloza, alias “HH,” has made valuable revelations that contribute to theright to truth. However, the victims have many questions still to be answered, and there aremany crimes still to confess. It should not be forgotten that this paramilitary boss was thecommander of two paramilitary blocks (the Calima Block and the AUC Banana Block), andthat in one of his testimonies he confessed that he assassinated approximately 1,500 personsin a single year in the Urabá region. The magnitude of the crimes committed by thismember of the paramilitary and by the blocks under his command is enormous, so it is to beexpected that he still has many more facts to confess and details to specify.The National Government has already snatched away from the victims of the extraditedparamilitary bosses the possibility of having justice done in Colombia. The case of ÉverVeloza represents an opportunity for the Government to rectify its misguided decision toextradite the paramilitaries who are now offering their free-version testimonies in the“justice and peace” legal proceedings in Colombia. and to act in accordance withinternational human rights law and the Colombian constitution, according to which prioritymust be given to judging and sanctioning crimes against humanity over the judgment of thecrimes related to drug trafficking that this paramilitary boss might have committed.5 Free-version hearing of Éver Veloza García, alias “HH,” May 26, 27 and 28, 2008.
  5. 5. 5The Colombian Government and the Embassy of the United States have announcedpublicly that they have signed an agreement so that the extradited members of theparamilitary can continue to render free-version testimonies before the Colombian justicesystem from the United States. However, the truth is that the free-version hearings of thoseparamilitaries have been suspended since their extradition. It is unknown when they will beresumed. Mario Iguarán, the Prosecutor General, told representatives of the victims –among them the Colombian Commission of Jurists – that the U.S. Attorney General had lethim know that during the negotiations between the U.S. government and the paramilitariesregarding advance sentences in relation to the crime of drug trafficking, the paramilitarieswould not be allowed to declare before the Colombian legal authorities. Such negotiations,said the U.S. Attorney General to the Colombian Prosecutor General, can lastapproximately a year. After those negotiations end, it seems improbable that theparamilitaries will agree to continue giving testimony before Colombian justice becausethis could worsen their situation with U.S. justice. Consequently, even if it were true thatthe two governments signed a legal cooperation agreement for such cases (whose terms, bythe way, have not been revealed to the public), the efficacy of such an agreement is, to saythe least, unpromising and uncertain.The request for the extradition of Éver Veloza is being processed by the Supreme Court,and it would not be surprising that, if the Court rules favorably, the Government willdecide, as it did in other cases, to grant the extradition of this paramilitary leader to theUnited States to be judged for drug trafficking, in detriment of the rights of the victims totruth, justice, and reparation for the crimes he committed in Colombia.This worrisome news has become known a few days before the paramilitary commander isto testify once more before the Justice and Peace Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office. In thisfree version hearing it is hoped that he will return goods for the reparation of the victims ofthe Calima and Banana Blocks – if the government allows.The Government should heed judicial rulings and respect the jurisprudence of the SupremeCourt regarding cases in which there is a request for the extradition of a person taking partin the proceedings under Law 975. In that jurisprudence, the Supreme Court consideredthat, although it can rule favorably on the extradition of a person being processed underLaw 975 of 2005, it must be understood that such a decision depends on the personpreviously having complied with his/her obligations toward the victims and towardColombian justice. This was the Court’s position when referring to the favorable ruling itissued in the case of the paramilitary leader Mario Jiménez Naranjo, alias “Macaco”:“Indeed, in such cases as that which gave origin to the present debate, it isnecessary to weigh, let it be said again, the particular interest at stake of the before-mentioned mechanism of international cooperation with respect to the objectivesthat motivate the law of justice and peace, given that the characteristics of thecrimes committed by the illegal groups involving massacres, kidnappings, forced
  6. 6. 6disappearances, tortures, forced displacement, among others, give prevalence tointernational human rights law over said instrument of cooperation in the waragainst delinquency.From this perspective, it is understandable why the Court’s concept regarding therequirements for extradition can rule positively and at the same time set conditions,being aware that the person requested is at the same time a candidate for thebenefits of the law of justice and peace; since, given the greater harm done tosociety by the illegal armed groups, their effective legal process as members ofthose criminal organizations cannot be postponed, as their cooperation is requiredin order to shed light on such activities, determine their perpetrators andcollaborators, find the victims or their remains, etc.” 6Notwithstanding this jurisprudence, the Government decided to extradite 15 paramilitariesto the United States. It is hoped that on this occasion, however, the ruling issued by theSupreme Court regarding the request for the extradition of Éver Veloza García reiteratesthe jurisprudence quoted above and is more assertive in warning the Government that itmust abstain from making effective the order of extradition of this paramilitary leader untilColombian justice establishes his responsibility for the crimes against humanity committedin Colombia; and that, in this sense, it must not try to silence the truth that for many yearsthe State and the paramilitary groups have owed the victims.For more information, please contact Gustavo Gallón-Giraldo, Director of the CCJ, at Tel. (571) 376 8200, Ext. 115.Bogotá, July 31, 20086 Supreme Court of Justice, second jurisdiccional level, n. °29559, Carlos Mario Jiménez Naranjo, M.P. Julio Enrique Socha Salamanca,April 2008.