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 gervassib@lchr.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.


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