Lack of guarantees, disregard of evidence gathered by the Supreme Court of Justice during the investigation of procedural fraud and bribery of witnesses against the former president of Colombia, and what appears to be an attempt to prosecute the victim (senator Iván Cepeda) have been some of the reasons for this monitoring which aims to prevent impunity.
The strange twists and turns in the investigation of procedural fraud and bribery of witnesses against the former president have cast doubt on the objectivity and fairness with which this case, which was initially in the hands of the Supreme Court of Justice, can be resolved.
In the course of the criminal investigation, Uribe spent more than two months under house arrest by decision of the Supreme Court on 4 August 2020 for its finding of “possible risks of obstruction of justice, with respect to the future collection of evidence of allegedly criminal acts…” Fourteen days later, on 18 August, he resigned his seat in the Senate in an attempt to leave the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and be investigated by another body.
The case was then passed to the Attorney General’s Office. The prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa, is not only a friend of the current president of Colombia, Ivan Duque Escobar, but also a sympathiser of what is known in Colombia as Uribismo, a far-right political movement led by Uribe Vélez.
As soon as the case reached the prosecutor’s office, it was assigned to prosecutor Gabriel Jaimes, who has called for Uribe’s release, as have members of the far-right Centro Democratico party.
Even the President of the Republic himself came to his defence, which has led to harsh criticism of him for exceeding his powers.
In addition to this, not only does the right wing control a large part of the control bodies and supervisory mechanisms, but also some media outlets, openly in favour of the former president, have created an atmosphere in public opinion in which the Supreme Court itself has been questioned, as well as those who hope that the politician will not go unpunished.
All of the above has made the real victim of the process, Senator Iván Cepeda, feel that he does not have due process. (Ivan Cepeda is a human rights defender and peace activist who has dedicated much of her life to rights for all. He is also a victim representative and one of the country’s most influential moral authorities on the left).
His fears are shared by jurists, politicians and human rights activists inside and outside the country. As a result, initiatives have emerged that believe it is urgent to keep a close eye on the process so that the case does not end up being shelved and Cepeda is not brought to trial.
The initiatives include a petition on Change.org requesting “the International Criminal Court to investigate Álvaro Uribe Vélez”, the hashtag #UribeDebeResponder, #NadiePerEncimaDeLaJusticia, dialogues with different countries and the creation of a citizens’ watchdog in Colombia. These are, among others, some of the initiative s that seek to prevent the former Colombian senator and president from remaining unpunished.
This spontaneous and growing movement has now been joined by a public letter sent to the country’s attorney general, Francisco Barbosa, informing him that various individuals and organisations based in different countries have set up an international watchdog to monitor the prosecution of former senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
The letter, dated 20 February this year, states that “Given the importance of this process, from abroad we join the request for full guarantees for the victims recognised in this process, protection of witnesses, assessment of the evidence handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office by the Supreme Court of Justice and, of course, the application of due justice”.
The letter informs ” the Colombian Prosecutor that this international vigilance will be exercised in order to avoid impunity and to ensure legality as essential and universal principles of the exercise of justice.”
The initiative (which has the support of the Let’s Defend Colombia campaign) has arisen in different segments of Colombian and international society, who are, as one source says, “tired of seeing that everything that concerns an investigation of former senator, former president Uribe, as if by magic goes unpunished. There are more than 200 cases with accusations against him that are currently frozen or are about to be terminated”. At the time of writing this article, the international citizen watchdog letter had collected nearly 500 signatures from Colombian and foreign citizens and organisations on three continents.
The letter reads:
“Mr. Francisco Barbosa
Attorney General of the Nation
In our capacity as lawyers, academics, parliamentarians, religious leaders, representatives of various organisations and democrats from various countries around the world, we are writing to inform you that we have formed an international watchdog to monitor the prosecution of former senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, for the crimes of procedural fraud and bribery of witnesses.
Given the importance of this process, from abroad we join the request for full guarantees for the victims recognised in this process, protection of witnesses, assessment of the evidence handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office by the Supreme Court of Justice and, of course, the application of due justice. We inform the Colombian Prosecutor that this international vigilance will be exercised in order to avoid impunity and to ensure legality as essential and universal principles of the exercise of justice.
As Página 12 reports, the case against Uribe dates back to 2012: “During a parliamentary debate, Senator Iván Cepeda of the left-wing Polo Democrático Alternativo party linked Uribe to the emergence of paramilitarism in Antioquia and the rise of drug trafficking in the country. In response to these accusations, the former president denounced Cepeda before the Supreme Court for allegedly using false witnesses. He [Uribe] claimed that he had sought out former paramilitaries in prisons and convinced them to testify against him. The then assistant magistrate of the Colombian Criminal Chamber, José Luis Barceló, decided in February 2018 to shelve the complaint. However, he considered that there were elements to open an investigation into Uribe for alleged witness tampering against Cepeda.”