World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

OPEN LETTER TO MR. Juan Manuel Santos Calderon



[Translated by Leo Torres, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor.]

Mr. President

Juan Manuel Santos Calderon

President of the Republic of Colombia

FAX: + 571 3375890 + 571 3372071


Geneva,  February 1, 2011


Re: serious concern at the lack of adequate medical care for prisoners in jails in Colombia, particularly for those who are ill, and for the death of Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre, who was under arrest and died without receiving adequate medical treatment.

Dear Mr. President,

Very attentively we are turning to you from the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), which coordinates the SOS-Torture network, the largest international coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) fighting against torture, summary executions, forced disappearances and any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in order to express our serious concern at the lack of adequate medical care in Colombia’s prisons, and the death of Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre, 30-year-old prisoner, who had not received assistance or adequate medical treatment for his illness during his time of imprisonment, in the Prison of high and medium security of "Palogordo," city of Giron, Department of Santander. OMCT is also concerned about the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Devis Johan Ochoa, prisoner currently held in block No. 6 of that prison of "Palogordo," whose condition is serious due to diabetes type two, a chronic disease which requires daily doses of special medicine every day.


OMCT has known that since July 1, 2009, Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre was seeking urgent medical attention on several occasions, because he felt severe abdominal pain and the doctors always told him he had an “acute gastritis.”  On December 17, 2010 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and they proceeded to send him from the prison of "Palogordo" to the University Hospital of Santander in Bucaramanga. On January 8, 2011 Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre died, and according to the report he was left without adequate medical care and without his family being informed at the Health Block of the National Model Prison of Bucaramanga, where he was sent from the University Hospital, arguing that clinically they could not do anything for him.

OMCT is also concerned about the attitude of the National Prison Institute of Colombia (INPEC) which, although they knew the phone numbers of family members of Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre, they never informed them about his illness or his death; and they have sent the body to forensic facilities identified as "NN" [unidentified], despite the INPEC had the full identification of Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre. Indeed, although Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre died January 8, 2011, it was only until January 12, 2011 when a member of an organization that defends human rights came to the Prison of Bucaramanga to request an interview with Mr. Manjarrés, and was informed that the prisoner (Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre) had died the previous Saturday at 10:30 a.m.


OMCT is also concerned about the safety and personal integrity of Mr. Devis Johan Ochoa, who is confined in the prison of “Palogordo." Even though the prison doctor prescribed him an essential drug to outlive his disease and a special diet, the prison does not supply the diet that he requires and also since he was moved to Block 6, they failed to provide his vital medication.

Mr. President, OMCT has denounced in the past the lack of adequate medical care and negligence of prisoners of Colombian jails, as it is the case of Mr. Freddy Arnoldo Rojas Gonzalez, 28 years old, arrested in Picaleña the National Penitentiary of the city of Ibague, Department of Tolima, who needs proper medical treatment to treat an old wound caused by a rifle shot which is in very bad condition (See OMCT Appeal COL 201010, issued on October 20, 2010).

The International Secretariat of OMCT recalls that according to the Minimum Standard Rules of United Nations for the Treatment of Prisoners,: 22. (…). 2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to the to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. When the facilities are provided in an internal hospital, they are provided with the material, the equipment and pharmaceuticals necessary to provide care of sick prisoners and adequate treatment. (…) 24. The physician should examine every prisoner as soon as possible after his admission and thereafter as often as needed, in particular to determine the existence of a physical or mental, to take appropriate steps, (…). 25. 1) The medical officer shall ensure the physical and mental health of prisoners, and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and those which call his attention.

Mr. President, OMCT expresses our serious concern for the safety and physical and psychological integrity of all detainees, especially of prisoners who are ill in prisons, detention centers and generally in all Colombia's penitentiary centers, and therefore we respectfully request that the most appropriate security measures are urgently taken to guarantee them, and to provide adequate medical care required by their respective cases, according to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of UN prisoners.

Mr. President, relying on your commitment to human rights, we you very respectfully sign below,


Secretary General

World Organization against Torture



_ Mission of Colombia to the United Nations in Geneva. 17-19, Chemin du Champ d'Anier,     1209 Geneva, Switzerland. FAX: + 41 22 791 0787 E-mail: mission.colombia @

_Mr. Angelino Garzón, Vice President, Tel: + 571 334 4507, + 573772 0130


_ Dr. Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz, Defensor del Pueblo, Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogotá. Fax: + 571

314 7300  + 571 640 0491 E-mail:;

_Ms. Vivianne Morales, Attorney General's Office, Diagonal 22-B # 52-01, Bogotá. Fax: + 571 570 2000 + 571 414

9000 Extension 1113 E-mail:

_Mr. Germain Vargas Lleras, Ministry of Interior and Justice, Carrera 8 No. 13-31 4th floor.

Tels: + 57 1 444 31 00 Ext 2410 Fax: + 57 1 282 74 40


_Mr. Jaime Ulloa Hernan Vanegas, Director of Presidential Program for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Fax: +571 565 9797 E-mail:

_Diplomatic · Mission of Colombia in Brussels, E-mail:; E-mail:,

FAX: + 322 646 5491


1. Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre, who belonged to the guerrillas (National Liberation Army – ELN), was arrested on March 2, 2008 in the Magdalena Medio Regional Hospital of Barrancabermeja where he was receiving medical attention after being seriously injured in clashes occurred in the southern region of Bolivar Department. Subsequently, on May 13, 2008, the Third Criminal Court Circuit of Bogota sentenced him to 28 years in prison and since that date was sent to prison "Palogordo."

2. Mr. Devis Johan Ochoa, currently detained in "Palogordo," was sentenced by a court of Simití (south of Bolivar) to 4 years and 8 months in prison for the crime of rebellion (not reported the date of conviction).

3. According to reports, the Block of Health of the National Model Prison of Bucaramanga where Mr. José Albeiro Manjarrés Cupitre was sent in very bad health conditions, and in general all prisons’ nursing in Colombia, do not meet the conditions necessary to provide palliative treatment required by the illness he was suffering.

4. Mr. Freddy Arnoldo Rojas González has in the femur bone, in his leg shattered by a bullet, an implant with nine screws, which is used to treat multiple fractures through an external fixation that favors immobility, allowing the lost tissue, as a result of the fracture, to restore. View:


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