Two Lawyer to Lawyer Appeals in Colombia MARCH 1998 JESUS MARIA VALLE JARAMILLO (COMITE PERMANENTE DE DERECHOS HUMANOS "HECTOR ABAD GOMEZ") -COLOMBIA JesÖs Mar╠a Valle Jaramillo, a lawyer, former municipal official and president of the "H╚ctor Abad G█mez" Permanent Committee for Human Rights (Comit╚ Permanente de Derechos Humanos "H╚ctor Abad G█mez") was shot to death in his office in Medell╠n, Colombia, on February 27, 1998. In recent months, Mr. Valle Jaramillo concentrated his efforts on documenting and denouncing the human rights situation in the state of Antioquia, particularly in the municipality of Ituango in the northwestern part of the state. In June 1997, Mr. Jaramillo came into open conflict with governmental authorities after alleging publicly that paramilitaries were conducting joint patrols with the armed forces. After this interview, Alvaro Uribe V╚lez, at that time governor of Antioquia, publicly characterized Mr. Valle Jaramillo as an "enemy" of the armed forces of Colombia. Mr. Uribe V╚lez is well known in Colombia for his public statements in favor of paramilitary activity, and for his comment, quoted in El Tiempo, Colombia's largest newspaper, that the work of human rights groups is "guerrilla diplomacy." Alarmed by the governor's comments, the Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad (CODHESEL) issued a public statement alleging that, with the prevailing tense situation in Colombia, Mr. Uribe V╚lez had endangered Mr. Valle Jaramillo by singling him out as an enemy of the armed forces. In fact, statements similar to Uribe's had been made by the military itself. According to Colombian human rights groups, a 1985 training manual for military officers produced by the army's War College (Escuela Superior de Guerra) entitled "Get to Know Our Enemy" listed the Permanent Committee as an enemy of the armed forces. Two years later, H╚ctor Abad G█mez, then the president of the Permanent Committee, was assassinated with a colleague as they attended a ceremony for a third human rights activist murdered the same day. Mr. Valle Jaramillo assumed the presidency after the murders. As the human rights situation in Antioquia continued to deteriorate in late 1997, Mr. Valle Jaramillo was active in denouncing flagrant violations by paramilitary forces. Between October 15 and 25, 1997, in the towns of El Aro and Santa Rita (in the area known as "el Nudo de Paramillo") paramilitary forces perpetrated, allegedly in conjunction with local military, a series of massacres which provoked a massive exodus of residents. The armed forces contended that the incidents had been skirmishes between the military and the guerrillas, but Mr. Valle Jaramillo alleged that the dead were innocent peasants, not combatants. The army reacted to his allegations by filing a formal complaint of criminal defamation and conspiracy against him. Mr. Valle Jaramillo also received a series of death threats, and human rights groups say that he was placed on a paramilitary list of assassination targets, causing him to resign from his position as a municipal official. During an on-site visit to Colombia in December, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights met with Mr. Valle Jaramillo, who provided information about the human rights situation and the alleged links between the military and paramilitary groups, as well as the threats and charges against him. In February, Mr. Valle Jaramillo was summoned to give a statement in the criminal defamation and conspiracy case against him. Undaunted, in a press interview on February 26 he stated that he had sufficient evidence to back up his allegations of numerous links between the paramilitary groups and the armed forces. Colombian NGOs and the UN's human rights office in Colombia have also received voluminous evidence of such links. The next day, February 27, witnesses claim that the army and police conducted a joint search and seizure operation in Medell╠n's downtown area. This operation went on from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Human rights workers from officers near the center, only blocks away from the Permanent Committee's office, say that the security forces blanketed the area, stopping pedestrians to demand identification and search them for weapons. Nonetheless, at 2:30, according to eyewitnesses, 16 gunmen in civilian clothes approached the Committee's offices without being stopped. Three of them-two men and a woman-proceeded inside. There were three people in the office at that time: Mr. Valle Jaramillo, his sister and a Committee staff member. The gunmen bound and gagged Mr. Valle Jaramillo's sister and colleague and then executed Mr. Valle Jaramillo with a gunshot to the head. The two witnesses to the killing claim that just prior to shooting him the gunmen remarked, "We know you are important, but you won't stop being a problem." This killing is the latest in a series of violent acts, threats and politically inspired prosecutions against human rights activists, particularly those in Antioquia. Human rights groups around the country have reacted with fear, as the high-profile killing is seen by many as a signal that anyone can be targeted. These actions ignore President Ernesto Samper's ill-fated Presidential Directive 011 to government officials, including military commanders, to abstain from "formulating statements which disregard the legitimacy of human rights organizations, . . . or which constitute harassment or threat against them." (See December 1997 Appeal and Action Update accompanying this Appeal.) The Prosecutor General's BogotĚ-based Human Rights Unit has begun an investigation into the killing of Mr. Valle Jaramillo. The Prosecutor General and the Judicial Police Council have offered a reward of 200 million Colombian pesos (about $200,000) for information about those responsible for this crime. Recommended Action Please write politely worded letters to the Attorney General urging an investigation into the killing. You may choose to indicate your concern that the circumstances warrant particular attention to whether members of the security forces acquiesced in or were otherwise involved in the attack. In addition, please write to Secretary of State Albright requesting that the U.S. government take steps to determine whether there was official involvement in this crime, and to take appropriate action as required under Section 570 of the 1998 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (known as the Leahy Amendment). The Leahy amendment requires the Secretary of State to withhold funds to security force units regarding which the Secretary has credible evidence of involvement in gross violations of human rights, unless the Secretary determines that the Colombian government is taking "effective measures" to bring those responsible to justice. Appeals to: Dr. Alfonso Gomez M╚ndez Madeleine Albright Fiscal General de la Naci█n Secretary of State Fiscal╠a General de la Naci█n Department of State Calle 35 No. 4-31 2201 C Street, NW Apartado A╚reo 29855 Room 7226 Santaf╚ de BogotĚ, COLOMBIA Washington, DC 20520 Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General Salutation: Dear Secretary of State Albright Fax: +571 288 2828 Fax: (202) 647-1533 Copies to: Please send copies of your letters to your country's ambassador to Colombia, as well as to the Colombian ambassador to your country. For those in the United States, those individuals are: Dr. Juan Carlos Esguerra Amb. Curtis W. Kamman Embassy of Colombia U.S. Embassy 2118 Leroy Place Calle 22D Bis 47-51 Washington, D.C. 20008 Santaf╚ de BogotĚ, COLOMBIA Fax: 202-232-8643 Fax:+571 315 2197 For further background on the human rights situation in Colombia and reports on other aspects of the Colombian justice system, click on the links in the electronic version of this Appeal on the Lawyers Committee's web site: http://www.lchr.org. Or contact Berenice Gervassi at the Lawyers Committee at (212) 845-5262 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. ACTION UPDATE MARCH 1998 ALIRIO URIBE and MIGUEL PUERTO BARRERA (Corporaci█n Colectivo de Abogados Jos╚ Alvear Restrepo) BAYRON RICARDO G▓NGORA (Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad) and WILLIAM GARCŇA CARTAGENA - COLOMBIA The Lawyers Committee remains seriously concerned about the fate of four human rights lawyers in Colombia. In December, the Committee issued a Lawyer-to-Lawyer Appeal on behalf of Alirio Uribe and Miguel Puerto Barrera of the BogotĚ-based Jos╚ Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (Corporaci█n Colectivo de Abogados Jos╚ Alvear Restrepo); Bayron Ricardo G█ngora Arango, an attorney with member organizations of the "Seeds of Liberty" Human Rights Collective (Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Semillas de Libertad: CODEHSEL), a coordinating federation of 15 human rights groups that operates in the department of Antioquia; and William Garc╠a Cartagena, a lawyer who has represented many individuals charged with political crimes. (The December Appeal reported that Mr. Garc╠a Cartagena is a member of one of CODEHSEL's constituent organizations; this is not in fact the case, although he is represented by CODEHSEL.) Various military intelligence reports accused Mr. Uribe and Mr. G█ngora of belonging to guerrilla organizations, using as the factual basis for the allegations the lawyers' human rights activities. Miguel Puerto Barrera was declared a military target, according to sources warned by a military source shortly after Mr. Puerto took part in a joint governmental-NGO commission to investigate human rights violations in Arauca department. Mr. Puerto was reportedly briefly detained by the military and later released. Since the December Appeal the Lawyers Committee has received additional information about these cases. William Garc╠a Cartagena, who was arrested and detained for 15 days and then released when a prosecutor dismissed the case, is named in a second set of allegations against two other human rights activists. In that case, two paid informants for the military accused the three of forming part of the legal and political branches of subversive organizations. A military intelligence report prepared by the Sixth Battalion of Antioquia's 20th Brigade, which also forms the basis for the allegations, accuses human rights attorneys of blocking prosecutions with "fraudulent strategies." CODEHSEL reports that the prosecutor has not yet formally named Garc╠a Cartagena as a target of the criminal investigation, or decided whether to summon him to testify about the allegations. An anonymous prosecutor in Colombia's "faceless" court system has opened a formal investigation against Bayron Ricardo G█ngora Arango on charges of rebellion. The only evidentiary basis for the prosecution appears to be the testimony of an informant for the military who was convicted for participation in illegal paramilitary groups. No other information about the case is currently available. No further developments are reported by the Lawyers Collective in BogotĚ regarding lawyers Alirio Uribe and Miguel Puerto Barrera. For the moment no additional action is required on their cases. However, Lawyers Collective staff members have echoed the sentiments of others that the February 27 murder of JesÖs Mar╠a Valle Jaramillo (see Lawyer-to-Lawyer Appeal March 1998, included in this mailing), interpreting this killing as a signal to human rights lawyers anywhere in the country that any of them can be targeted. Recommended Action Please write politely worded letters to Colombia's Prosecutor General outlining the concerns under international law that are raised by the cases that have or may be initiated against the CODEHSEL lawyers. These include rights provided for in Article 14(3) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as Principle 18 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Citing the ICCPR is important, since the Colombian government has expressly stated its commitment to complying with the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee. Original letters (or copies of the letter to the Prosecutor General) may also be sent to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner in BogotĚ, which is responsible for reporting on governmental compliance with international instruments and for working with the authorities in the event of a complaint about compliance. Letters to the Prosecutor General should ask for an immediate review of the cases, and for the investigations to be terminated if the allegations do not provide a reasonable basis for concluding that these lawyers were involved in illegal activities. Letters to the United Nations office should ask the representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to request information from the Colombian authorities clarifying the basis upon which these cases have been initiated, and requesting the Prosecutor General to close the cases definitively in the event that no adequate basis exists. Copies of your letters may also be sent to the US embassy. Please send copies of your letters (not noted on the original) to Cynthia Yoon at the Lawyers Committee. If you are writing after March 31, or if you require further information about these cases, please contact Berenice Gervassi at (212) 845-5262. Appeals to: Dr. Alfonso Gomez M╚ndez Dra. Almudena Mazarrasa Alvear Fiscal General de la Naci█n Directora Fiscal╠a General de la Naci█n Alto Comisionado Para los Derechos Humanos de las Calle 35 No. 4-31 Naciones Unidas - Oficina en Colombia Apartado A╚reo 29855 Calle 7a #74-56 Piso 11 Santaf╚ de BogotĚ, COLOMBIA Santaf╚ de BogotĚ, COLOMBIA Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General Salutation: Dear Ambassador Mazarrasa Alvear Fax: +571 288 2828 Fax: +571 331 4050 Copies to: Please send copies of your letters to your country's ambassador to Colombia, as well as to the Colombian ambassador to your country. For those in the United States, those individuals are: Dr. Juan Carlos Esguerra Amb. Curtis W. Kamman Embassy of Colombia U.S. Embassy 2118 Leroy Place Calle 22D Bis 47-51 Washington, D.C. 20008 Santaf╚ de BogotĚ, COLOMBIA Fax: 202-232-8643 Fax: +571 315 2197 For further background on the "faceless courts," military justice and other relevant aspects of the Colombian justice system, see the Lawyers Committee publications Colombia: Public Order, Private Injustice and Comments Relating to the Fourth Periodic Report on Colombia before the U.N. Human Rights Committee. These are available on request from the Lawyers Committee, or by following links in the electronic version of this Appeal on the Committee's website, http://www.lchr.org.