A prize for forced displacement and subsequent killings: Colonel Jose Gabriel Castrillón, advising Commission for the OAS in Washington

Wednesday, December 15, 2010, Presna-Colectivo

[Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor.]

On the February, 10, 2004 in the region of Urabá, four youth became victims of an extrajudicial execution.  The decision to send Colonel José Gabriel Castrillón, investigated for these events, as OAS advisor in Washington, is seen as a “prize for the forced displacement” of these families.

In a letter sent this past Monday, December 13, President Juan Manuel Santos and the families of the victims asked that “the Colonel not be permitted to continue in said diplomatic commission” and that he return to the country until the investigation is concluded.

Although Colonel Castrillón was set free, after being detained for these acts, through an signed agreement, for Santos and family members, investigations by the National Attorney General continue.

“It is inadmissible that Castrillón be sent to the Commission for his supposed good performance, without having taken into account the investigation that was set forward by the forced displacement and assassination of our children,” noted family members of the victims.

The Army official, despite having signed an signed agreement before the Fiscalía 81 de Derechos Humanos (81st Human Right’s Prosecutor General’s Office) in which he expressed willingness to appear when required, did not attend as legal witness this past 9 and 10 of December against ten military members of the 17th brigade for their involvement in these acts.

Castrillón was detained in a bunker at the prosecutor general’s office and regained his freedom as soon as security measures were not confirmed, on the grounds that just one signature of operating orders justifying the assassinations was not sufficient evidence for imprisonment.

Families have expressed that, “despite declarations presented by the Defense Minister Rodrigo Riviera and Luis Alfonso Hoyos, the Ambassador of the OSA in Washington, we do not understand why Castrillón continues to be a part of the Commission, despite the investigation that was put forth against him.  It is very serious and what must be done is to respond to these events in Colombia.”

According to testimonies of family members, friends and other witnesses, the four youth, Luis Armando Camp Mercado, Alberto Mario Arias Manjarres, Jose Ulises Perez Perez and Edwin Enrique Arias Chavez, were contacted by Cristobal Junior Mestra Tamara, who tricked them into getting into a taxi destined for Monteria, where they were taken in municipal transport toward San Juan, Uraba.  It was there in which they were supposed to work.  Afterward, this figure returned to the neighborhood of the four youth to inform their families of their later return.

At this point it is important to note that their own recruiter, Mestra Tamara, during the past December 9 investigation, acknowledged that the professional soldier, Luis Fernando Serna Cortes, one of 11 military processed who went to get the youth.

Previously, on February 12, the four victims were reported by the 17th brigade, located in Carepa, Antioquia, as guerrilla fighters killed in combat which supposedly had occurred the previous day, February 11, during the development of the Fugaz operation by the Azteca 4 squad in Unguía, Choco.

According to military, the youth’s bodies were taken to the 17th brigade from the location of their supposed execution.

However, from this version of events, for families and for victims, it is clear that the youth were assassinated on their way to San Juan, Urabá.

These matters are being investigated in addition to the recruiter, Cristobal Junior Mestra Támara and the Colonel Castrillón, who had reported supposed guerrilla combat in a report to the 94 Military Criminal Investigation Judge, former Capitan and recent major, Jorge Mauricio Ramírez Rodríguez, the Sergeant William Agudelo Soto, professional soldiers Fausto Alejandro Lozada Rojas, Luis Fernando Serna Cortes, Edwin Antonio Tapias Martínez, Ricardo Samuel Perez Saya, Julio Cesar Serna Córdoba, William Alexander Carmona Suñiga, Martin Suárez Madera, Wilfredo Antonio Díaz Ayala.

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