EL ESPECTADOR, December 24, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CNN Volunteer Translator)

The retired general has asked for a chance at the Special Justice Court, intending to have them review his conviction for the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán. The JEP has said that it has no jurisdiction, but that he could still be tried for the extermination of the U.P.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) did not believe retired General Miguel Maza Márquez. The high-ranking soldier convicted of the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, has been knocking on the door of the transitional justice since 2018 for his case, but that Court closed the door on him this week because of his refusal to talk about the extermination of the political party Patriotic Union (U.P.) Time and time again, the JEP has said that there is no room for review of his conviction, for one fundamental reason: the former officer has neither the capacity nor the disposition to provide any contribution to the truth, the unbreakable requirement that must be satisfied by anyone who seeks entrance to the Special Jurisdiction.

So where does the General stand now, a man who was in the theater of operations in one of the most violent periods, and who therefore could clarify previously unknown details of the armed conflict in this country? That question has two answers, because this is the way his legal reality is divided. On the one hand, the General has asked for a chance at the JEP, so that it can study his conviction issued by the Supreme Court of Justice in 2016, sentencing him to 30 years in prison. The decision was based on the finding that he was the co-author of the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, the New Liberalism Party’s candidate for President, and also of a Soacha Council member, Julio César Peñaloza.

However, for the JEP, that option was never clear. In 2020, the Special Jurisdiction explained to the retired General that it had no jurisdiction to re-open the assassination of Galán, but that it could admit him for one of the crimes for which he was convicted of criminal conspiracy instead. The retired General would have to present a commitment to the whole truth and to reparation to the victims. Maza Márquez didn’t like that answer, and so at that time decided to leave the JEP process voluntarily. That was his Troy. The JEP didn’t accept his voluntary leaving their process and explained to him that he would have to remain. His appearance was mandatory because he had been a member of the Armed Forces. He insisted on his withdrawal.

His lawyer even told the JEP in 2022, “My client has neither the capacity nor the disposition to provide any additional contribution of truth or reparation, just as he also has no contribution of additional truth or reparation that he could present to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.” In her pleadings she stated that it was the special justice system itself that was preventing Maza Márquez from contributing truth. “Their unjustifiable exclusion of him from their jurisdiction over the Galán homicide prevents my client from furnishing information about that issue, although such information could in some manner commit him to responsibility.”

Although before the JEP he argued that he had no obligation to remain, because he had asked for a chance to appear before them as a civilian.  At the same time, other paths were being opened to him in the ordinary justice system. While he was insisting on leaving the JEP, ex-Minister Andrés Felipe Arias unintentionally threw him the lifeline he needed. The review by the Constitutional Court of the conviction of Arias for the Agro Ingreso Seguro scandal included a sentence that ordered that every person with immunity, convicted in a single proceeding, must have an opportunity to challenge his sentence and attend a second proceeding (a legal guarantee that did not exist in Colombia until before 2020).

Without thinking twice, Maza asked to leave the JEP to challenge his conviction in the Supreme Court. It was only this week that the legal tangle ended up resolved. The Special Jurisdiction closed the doors to him and thus did not hear the testimony of one of the highest security officials in the country, who had in his hands the protection of the Presidential candidate with the most possibility of being the next President in the 1990 elections. The Definition of Legal Situations Branch itself said that Maza showed “no interest in entering a restorative process directed toward the real and effective satisfaction of the rights of the victims.”

Right now, there is no entrance for the General into the Special Jurisdiction. Accounts like those of Maza are essential for the reconstruction of what took place during 50 years of war. That’s why the JEP wants him, at least, to tell what he knows about the extermination of the Patriotic Union. Although he appeared in that case on several occasions, not without showing some insolence, the retired General has refused adamantly any participation in it.

However, he has said, for example, that Pablo Escobar and Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha might have kept tabs on their cartels in the agency that he directed and that members of intelligence battalions were also part of paramilitary groups. The Justice who manages the case of the U.P., Gustavo Salazar, showed him official documents showing how the DAS did participate in intelligence operations where they made lists of people close to the Party who would be the targets of stalking. He categorically denied any knowledge of any of that evidence.

At the end of the session, he even said to Justice Salazar that he had not attended the previous hearings because of his health. “I was very sick,” he insisted, and clarified, “But I agree with these investigations.” The JEP still has jurisdiction to try him for acts that occurred while he was an officer. It’s not even known if the Recognition Branch will connect him as an individual maximally responsible for the extermination of the U.P. For now, Maza’s moves in the transitional justice just remind us of the members of the dictatorships in the Southern Cone, who in spite of the claims of the victims, and even after being convicted, have opted to defend their honor and give justice the slip.

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