CASE N° CO/01 - Pedro Nel Jiménez Obando
CASE N° CO/02 - Leonardo Posada Pedraza
CASE N° CO/03 - Octavio Vargas Cuéllar
CASE N° CO/04 - Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo
CASE N° CO/06 - Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa
CASE N° CO/08 - Manuel Cepeda Vargas

Resolution adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council
at its 166th session (Amman, 6 May 2000)

The Inter-Parliamentary Council,

Referring to the outline of the case of Mr. Pedro Nel Jiménez Obando, Mr. Leonardo Posada Pedraza, Mr. Octavio Vargas Cuéllar, Mr. Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo, Mr. Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa and Mr. Manuel Cepeda Vargas of Colombia, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/166/16(c)­R.1), and to the relevant resolution adopted by the Council at its 165th session (October 1999),

Taking account of the information provided by the Office of the Vice-President of the Republic dated 10 February and 28 April 2000, and of information provided by one of the sources on 26 April 2000,

Recalling that the MPs concerned, members of the Unión Patriótica, were all assassinated between 1986 and 1994, and that only in the case of Senator Cepeda Vargas, murdered on 9 August 1994, have the investigations yielded any result,

Recalling in this regard that, on 28 June 1999, the disciplinary court (Procuraduría) concluded that General Herrera Luna (deceased in 1997) had ordered Senator Cepeda's murder; that Mr. Justo Gil Zúñiga Labrador and Mr. Hernando Medina Camacho, two army non-commissioned officers, perpetrated the crime with the complicity of paramilitary personnel under the command of Carlos Castaño Gil, and that, in pursuance of the Disciplinary Code, the two military servicemen were sentenced to a “severe reprimand”, upheld by the Procuraduría on appeal on 3 August 1999; recalling also that, at its 165th session, it found this sanction to be far too lenient given the gravity of the crime,

Considering in this connection that, in its letter of 10 February 2000, the Office of the Vice-President of the Republic reported that the “Policy for the promotion of, respect for and safeguarding of human rights and the application of international humanitarian law”, adopted on 12 August 1999, provided for legislative measures to promote reform of the Single Disciplinary Code; according to the draft reform of the Code submitted to Congress by the Public Prosecutor's Office, behaviour constituting grave human rights violations, including the different forms of homicide, was considered a serious enough breach to warrant removal from office or disqualification from holding public office,

Considering the following new information on file regarding the case of Manuel Cepeda:

  • On 1 October 1999, the Administrative Court of first instance of Cundinamarca ruled in favour of Senator Cepeda's family, ordering the State to compensate them for damages on account of State negligence and failure to protect the life of Senator Cepeda;
  • On 21 December 1999, the Third Special Chamber of Santa Fe found NCOs Justo Gil Zúñiga Labrador and Hernando Medina Camacho guilty of Senator Cepeda's murder and sentenced each of them to 43 years' imprisonment; under resolutions 871 of 8 September 1999 and 1051 of 4 November 1999, respectively, they were discharged from active service; Carlos Castaño was, however, cleared of all responsibility, notwithstanding the overwhelming volume of evidence against him which, as the Public Prosecutor noted himself in a hearing before the Senate Human Rights Committee, demonstrated his responsibility as the instigator of the crime; Senator Cepeda's family has lodged an appeal against this component of the judgment and the two NCOs have appealed against the judgment in its entirety;
  • The two NCOs are imprisoned in the military prison “Cuatro Bolas”,

Considering that Senator Cepeda's son and daughter-in-law received death threats on 5 November 1999; recalling in this connection the consistent allegation that the two NCOs were in fact frequently allowed out of their barracks and engaged in military intelligence, so that they were able to mount operations of harassment; considering in this connection the following, in particular:

  • The wife and one daughter of the main witness in the case have disappeared; in December 1999 an attempt was made to kidnap the second daughter of that witness;
  • During the first appeal hearing, the two NCOs reportedly appeared accompanied by dozens of soldiers who surrounded the court; they were not handcuffed, which according to one of the sources is unusual, and Mr. Medina Camacho had a cellular telephone and used it in court; in their testimony they said that Mr. Cepeda's family was lying and merely attempting to disparage the Colombian Armed Forces, particularly in the United States, one of Colombia's main arms suppliers;
  • The Attorney General, in a letter to the Commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Tapia, expressed concern at the growing number of escapes from military barracks and prisons,

Recalling that Mr. Carlos Castaño Gil is wanted for the murder of Senator Jaramillo and that, according to information provided by the authorities in April 1999 and confirmed in February 2000, the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General's Office charged Carlos and Fidel Castaño and Gustavo Meneses on 9 December 1998 with criminal association and homicide for terrorist purposes,

Considering that, according to one of the sources, in March 2000 Carlos Castaño gave an interview on the private TV channel “Caracol” in which he denied having ordered Senator Jaramillo's murder but admitted that he personally took decisions about who was to be “executed” by the Autodefensas (national organisation of paramilitary groups), that he was the instigator of other crimes such as killings, abductions, extortion and association with drug trafficking; on the strength of his statements, the Prosecutor brought new proceedings against him for a recent killing in northern Colombia,

Recalling in this connection that, in its third report on the human rights situation in Colombia (February 1999), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that “the State has played an important role in the development of the paramilitary groups and has not adequately combated those groups. The State is thus responsible, in a global sense, for the existence of the paramilitary and therefore faces responsibility for the actions carried out by those groups”; considering also that, in its report to the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (E/CN.4/2000/11) concluded that “the State bears responsibility for the present proportions and complexity of the paramilitary problem. The persistence of omissive and permissive attitudes and the direct and indirect aiding and abetting of paramilitarism is aggravated by the absence of any effective policy to combat it”.

Noting also the recommendation made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the report referred to above, namely that “The State should take immediate and concrete steps to combat the extremely high level of impunity that exists in all types of criminal cases, and particularly in traditional human rights cases. These steps should necessarily include serious, impartial and effective criminal investigations of those allegedly responsible for committing crimes and the imposition of corresponding legal sanctions”, in addition to the statement made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia in the above-mentioned report that it is the “Colombian State's obligation to combat impunity” through, inter alia, “the effective punishment of those responsible for human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law”,

Noting finally that, according to the authorities, special measures have been taken to combat impunity and that they are relevant to the cases under consideration, namely the establishment of a “Search Squad for private justice groups”, set up in December 1997 under Presidential Decree 2895 with the mandate, inter alia, to act in support of the Attorney General's Office in the execution of arrest warrants, together with the establishment by the Attorney General's Office, in 1999, of 26 sub-units in as many sectional directorates for the purpose of investigating crimes committed against Unión Patriótica members,

  1. Thanks the Office of the Vice-President of the Republic for the information it provided and its cooperation;
  2. Notes with satisfaction that the judiciary has finally delivered a verdict in the case of Senator Cepeda and that his family's right to compensation has been recognised; is also gratified to note that the proposed amendment to the Single Disciplinary Code provides for greater proportionality between criminal action and punishment;
  3. Is alarmed at the disappearance of the wife and daughter of one of the main witnesses in this case, the attempted kidnapping of the second daughter, the death threats against Senator Cepeda's son and daughter-in-law and the reported appearance of the military officers at the appeal hearing in March 2000;
  4. Wishes to ascertain:
       (i) Whether investigations have been instituted to locate the witness's wife and daughter and to shed light on the attempted kidnapping of the second daughter and, if so, what the outcome has been;
       (ii) Whether investigations have been instituted to determine who made the death threats against Iván Cepeda and his wife and, if so, whether they have yielded any result;
  5. Can but repeat its call on the authorities, and in particular the National Congress, to do their utmost to guarantee that the warrants issued for the arrest of Mr. Carlos Castaño Gil, who was recently interviewed on television, are executed, since this would constitute an essential step in the fight against impunity;
  6. Notes with regret that no progress has been made in the investigation relating to the other cases, and earnestly hopes that the establishment, in 1999, of special units to investigate crimes committed against Unión Patriótica members will finally yield results;
  7. Once more urges the National Congress of Colombia to do everything in its power to ensure that the State takes immediate practical steps to combat impunity, as recommended by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, since this is a prerequisite for restoring the rule of law, respect for human rights and peace;
  8. Requests the Secretary General to bring this decision to the attention of the Colombian parliamentary authorities, the appropriate governmental authorities and the Office of the Vice-President of the Republic, and to seek the requested information from them;
  9. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session (October 2000).

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