Letter from the Victims Movement to Costa Rica ref Uribe’s cousin

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN  volunteer translator)
Martes, 22 de abril de 2008.
Your Excellency, Mr. Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Costa Rica in Colombia
The signatories below, from organizations belonging to the Committee for the Fomenting of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, members of social organizations, defenders of human rights, and Colombian citizens in general, through this letter respectfully approach you, to ask that political asylum be denied to the ex-Senator of Colombia, Mario Uribe Escobar. He is currently being tried for his collaboration with the Colombian paramilitary, a structure responsible for high crimes against humanity, whose principal chief, Salvatore Mancuso, has recognized the direct involvement of Uribe Escobar in their criminal actions.
The nature of the crimes committed by paramilitary organizations in Colombia allows us to conclude that theirs are high crimes against humanity, which have largely been covered up by the blanket of impunity. This has implied not carrying out the obligations of investigating, prosecuting, judging, and sanctioning those responsible, intellectuals and political, social, economic, and cultural beneficiaries, according to the terms established by the American Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically regarding the obligation of guaranteeing protection, justice, impartial and due process, at a minimum, for the victims.
These serious crimes have affected peaceful coexistence, social harmony, and juridical, political, and military security. They have given rise to a feeling of lack of protection by the victims, their families and friends, among the political, social, agricultural, and human rights organizations and in the community in which the social fabric, constructed a thousand years ago, has been broken.
According to international human rights theory, when we speak of high crimes against humanity we refer at a minimum to the following behaviors: individual or collective executions of a summary nature, detentions-disappearances, torture, ethnocide and genocide, and the decision to commit these acts, when they have as a goal any of the previous ones, among others. These crimes imply an intent against the community in general and against humanity on the planet in all senses; here universal law makes sense, not conceding pardons, amnesty, stopping proceedings, inhibitory judgements, etc., or any other legal benefit.
The high crimes against humanity committed by paramilitary groups from 2002 to 2006 have been calculated to be about 3,015, according to the information distributed by the Colombian Commission of Jurists. In particular, those committed on the Atlantic coast are described in the following table:
Department                         Year  2002   2003   2004   2005
Antioquia                                  133      97        43     16   
 Arauca                                 15      41       31     26   
 Atlántico  6  44  11  13   
 Bolívar  14  79  31  8   
 Boyacá  Nr  4  3  1   
 Caldas  43  34  30  25   
 Caquetá  4  3  0  1   
 Casanare  0  3  4  3   
 Cauca  39  16  5  5   
 Cesar  8  36  20  4   
 Chocó  12  28  5  3   
 Córdoba  2  31  18  3   
 Cundinamarca  2  42  7  6   
 Bogotá  1  6  9  16   
 Guaviare  1  3  30  3   
 Huila  6  35  9  11   
 La Guajira  5  8  6  6   
 Magdalena  11  125  16  16   
 Meta  16  44  42  32   
 Nariño  4  8  4  7   
 Norte de Santander  21  124  19  3   
 Putumayo  3  1  10  7   
 Risaralda  8  21  37  7   
 Santander  62  154  37  14   
 Sucre  2  8  10  25   
 Tolima  6  36  44  19   
 Valle  33  37  57  12   
 Vichada  0  0  1  0
Mario Uribe Escobar is a politician in Antioquia of the Colombian Democratic Party, first cousin to the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, founder and spokesperson for his party, and ex-president of the Senate. Currently he is under investigation for conspiring to commit crimes, which is aggravated by his presumed connections to paramilitary organizations, presumed meetings with these illegal groups, and presumed paramilitary support in his electoral campaign.
Ex-Senator Mario Uribe Escobar was linked to the trial through information gathered eight years ago from ex-paramilitary Jairo Castillo Peralta. Based on that testimony, it was established that Uribe Escobar attended several meetings in Antioquia, Córdoba, and Sucre, presumably in order to gain land with paramilitary organizations in Antioquia and Sucre, which made him a large landowner. According to Castillo, “the strategy was to intimidate the landowners in order to buy their land from them cheaply . . . ”
In the information given by the General Registry of the Civil State, it is pointed out that among the list of 168 candidates for the Senate in 2002, members of different opposition parties, such as the Liberal Party, the Democratic Alternative Pole, were to be found, as well as from other political organizations that oppose those parties that support paramilitary organizations. Approximately 40% of the candidates were members of the opposition. They were affected no only by the economic contributions of paramilitary groups, but also by the political support that they offered in the region and the use they made of illegal tools such as threats and constraints in this region.[fn 1]
In the free version given before the Unity of Justice and Peace, Salvatore Mancuso testified under oath about his meetings with and political support of Uribe Escobar with the goal of getting him into the Congress of the Republic. He also asserted that ex-Representative Eleonora Piñeda Arcía was one of his witnesses; she later confirmed this, as is public knowledge.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Justice began a preliminary investigation of Mario Uribe Escobar on July 11, 2007. He was called in September 2007 (to testify on October 8, 2007) for presumed support of paramilitary organizations in his political career and in the acquisition of more than 5,000 hectares of land; on October 4, 2007, he resigned from Congress and the criminal investigation was referred to the ordinary justice system; he was replaced in congress by Ricardo Aljure; on December 5, 2007 he testified before the Attorney General of the Nation’s office and today, when the Attorney General’s office has imposed security measures on him, he has turned to desecrate the sacred institution of political asylum, in order to attempt to avoid justice.
Conspiracy to Commit Serious Crimes Cannot Be Considered a Political Crime

In its July 11, 2007 verdict, the Honorable Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia established a clear difference between political crime and conspiracy to commit serious crime (the crime that covers and penalizes paramilitary activity since the reform of the penal code in 2000, which eliminated the crimes that referred specifically to the term “paramilitarism”). The court recognizes the impossibility of equating conspiracy to commit a serious crime with sedition, which is a political crime. It supports this difference with in-depth arguments about the juridical nature of these crimes, as well as with convincing reasons based on the constitution, law, jurisprudence, and doctrine, and on the very  theory of the crime.
This decision by the Supreme Court is so firm that in the same verdict it provided that judicial officers can even use the exceptionality rule of inconstitutionality for substantive reasons, which consists of refusing to apply a norm because it is openly contrary to the Constitution whenever the paramilitaries are treated as seditious.
It should also be underscored that the judgment includes a long and in-depth list of arguments that provide evidence for the necessity of guaranteeing victims’ rights to truth, justice and full recompense, and to have effective access to justice, so that the State investigates, judges, and punishes those responsible for crimes; so that it is really true that there is no impunity.
It should be emphasized that this sentence also clearly supports international human rights agreements, sentences of the Interamerican Court, provisions of the International Penal Statutes, among others. It is time that the national tribunals of Colombia assume the historic challenge of basing their decisions on international human rights law and on international humanitarian law for the strengthening and legitimizing of justice, fundamental pillar of any democratic state and of law.
The national government, headed by the President of the Republic, as was to be expected—if we base ourselves on experience—has disqualified not only the sentence itself but also the Supreme Court, foolishly accusing it of having “ideological bias” and of not contributing to peace because of not working in harmony with the other branches of public power. Such a disqualification, besides being untrue and not speaking well of the president, constitutes an unauthorized involvement of the executive branch in the judicial branch that affects or attempts to affect the independence and impartiality that should characterize the courts. Now, his first cousin, Senator Mario Uribe Escobar, is knocking on Costa Rica’s door, petitioning for political asylum, when the crimes for which he is being investigated cannot be seen in any way as political.
The Right to Seek and Receive Asylum

The regulations for the right to asylum may be found in the Convention of Caracas of 1854 and in the VII International American Conference in Montevideo in 1954.
International American law has endorsed the criterion that each state has the right to give asylum or not. Nevertheless, there are limitations, such as the one contained in the UN resolution on territorial asylum from 1967, according to which it is established that asylum will not be given for common crimes or for acts contrary to the principles of the United Nations:
“No person shall be allowed to invoke the right to seek asylum, or to enjoy it, who is suspected on the basis of evidence of having committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, of those defined in the international agreements adopted with respect to such crimes.”
And it is impossible not to recognize that there is evidence, when the Colombian Attorney General’s office, after having listened to it in hearings for acquittal, imposed a security measure against Uribe Escobar. As a result, it would not only bring harm to international law, but with greater duress, it would also be a violation of our rights as victims of high crimes against humanity, to go to the extreme of offering political asylum to a person like Mario Uribe Escobar, who has been tried for very serious crimes that still occur in our country, which have violated the conscience of humankind.
This limitation is found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in article 14 establishes that:
“1. In case of persecution, all persons have a right to seek asylum, and enjoy it, in any country;
2. This right cannot be invoked against a judicial action that truly originated in common crimes or in acts that oppose the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
It is evident and eloquent that Mario Uribe Escobar has attempted to use this institution of international law with the single intention of evading fulfillment of the security measure against him, a legitimate and legal measure that competent juridical organisms of Colombia have imposed. It is impossible to arrive at a different conclusion when one observes that the petition was presented moments after notice of imposition of the security measure against him was announced in Colombia. Thus, Uribe Escobar has prevented the possibility of carrying out justice, by petitioning for political asylum, in our judgment completely without precedent.
According to this logic, the Honorable Interamerican Commission for Human Rights, in an opinion dated October 20, 2000 [fn 2], recommended to the member states of the OAS, “( . . . ) that they not offer asylum to presumed actual or intellectual perpetrators of international crimes.”According to this, the member States accepted:
“that there are limitations to asylum, according to which such protection may not be awarded to persons about whom there are serious indications to consider that they have committed international crimes, such as high crimes against humanity (a concept that includes the forced disappearance of persons, torture, and summary executions), war crimes, and crimes against peace.”
And it affirmed that to offer asylum to persons who abandon their country in order to elude their sentence and accept responsibility for being the material and intellectual perpetrators of international crimes constitutes a total betrayal of the institution.
As you can see, Your Excellency, Mr. Ambassador, we ask nothing else than to honor the content of the fundamental article 31 of the Constitution.
Article 31. The territory of Costa Rica will be an asylum for all persons persecuted for political reasons. If for legal reasons their expulsion is ordered, they cannot be sent to the country in which they were persecuted.
Extradition will be regulated by law or by international treaties and will never occur in cases of political crimes or connected to them, according to the judgement of Costa Rica.
Because of which, we most respectfully ask the government of the Republic of Costa Rica, to deny the petition for political asylum submitted by the accused criminal Mario Uribe Escobar.
Organizations of the Committee to Foment a National Movement for Victims of State Crimes
fn 1. http://www.registraduria.gov.co/Elecciones/te_senado1.htm

 fn 2. CIDH, “El Asilo y su relación con los crímenes internacionales ”. 20 de octubre de 2000 . OEA/Ser./L/V/II.111, Doc. 20 Rev., en Informe Anual de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos 2000, Washington . OEA, 16 abril 2001.
More reasons for saying no to asylum for Mario Uribe: www.movimientodevictimas.org

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