IPU Logo-middleInter-Parliamentary Union  
IPU Logo-bottomChemin du Pommier 5, C.P. 330, CH-1218 Le Grand-Saconnex/Geneva, Switzerland  


Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 192nd session
(Quito, 27 March 2013)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Álvaro Araújo Castro, a former member of the Colombian Congress, and to the resolution it adopted by the Governing Council at its 190th session (April 2012),

Taking into account the information provided by the competent authorities and the source to Senator Juan Pablo Letelier, Vice-President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, during his visit to Colombia on 20 and 21 March 2013,

Recalling the following information on file:

  • On 15 February 2007, the Supreme Court issued detention orders for then Senator Araújo Castro on charges of aggravated criminal conspiracy and voter intimidation; Senator Araújo Castro was also charged with aggravated abduction for the purpose of extortion, a charge that was subsequently dismissed;

  • Given that Colombian members of parliament are investigated and judged in single-instance proceedings by the Supreme Court, Mr. Araújo Castro relinquished his seat in Congress on 27 March 2007; as a result, his case was transferred to the ordinary judicial system, under which he would be investigated by the Prosecution Office and tried by an ordinary court with the possibility of appeal;

  • However, after a reinterpretation of its jurisprudence, the Supreme Court re‑established its jurisdiction with respect to his case and, on 18 March 2010, without giving him the opportunity of being heard, declared him guilty of aggravated criminal conspiracy and voter intimidation and sentenced him to a prison term of 112 months and payment of a fine; in the same ruling, the Supreme Court ordered that an investigation be conducted to establish whether or not Mr. Araújo Castro could be considered part of the paramilitary command structure and therefore to share responsibility for the crimes against humanity they committed; as with the original charges, both the investigation and any subsequent trial on this matter are entrusted to the Supreme Court, whose ruling would not be subject to appeal;

  • A legal expert, Mr. Alejandro Salinas, asked by the Committee to examine whether the right to a fair trial had been respected in the case, concluded that the legal proceedings against Mr. Araújo Castro were fundamentally flawed;

  • Mr. Araújo Castro was conditionally released in February 2011, having served three fifths of his prison sentence,
Recalling that in June 2012 the President of Colombia formally objected to a legislative initiative for judicial reform proposing inter alia the establishment of an appeal instance in the procedure applicable to members of Congress in criminal cases, and that his objection subsequently led Congress to dismiss the initiative; recalling also that an IPU mission travelled to Bogotá in August 2011 to help strengthen the National Congress of Colombia and, as part of that assignment, formulated a series of recommendations, including with a view to helping ensure greater respect for fair-trial standards in criminal cases against members of Congress,

Considering that, in the meeting that the Committee Vice-President had on 21 March 2013 with the President and other members of the Supreme Court of Colombia, Mr. Fernando Alberto Castro Caballero, a member of the Supreme Court Criminal Chamber, stated that the Court was in favour of an appeal instance but that such an instance would have to be established by Congress,

Recalling that Mr. Araújo Castro submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2012 denouncing the flawed judicial proceedings in his case,

  1. Thanks the competent Colombian authorities for their cooperation and for receiving the Committee’s Vice-President;

  2. Reaffirms its longstanding view that Mr. Araújo Castro was convicted in legal proceedings that violated his right to a fair trial and in the absence of compelling tangible and direct evidence to substantiate his conviction, on the grounds of his complicity with the paramilitary forces, on charges of aggravated criminal conspiracy and voter intimidation;

  3. Remains deeply concerned, therefore, that the Supreme Court used this conviction as the basis for ordering an investigation into the much more serious accusation that he was in fact part of the paramilitary command structure, and that such investigation, which relates to crimes against humanity, can run indefinitely as it is not subject to the statute of limitations;

  4. Considers that so long as basic fair-trial concerns are not addressed and there is no convincing evidence for the lesser charge, such investigation is inapposite; sincerely hopes, therefore, that the Supreme Court will discontinue it;

  5. Remains convinced that concerns about the lack of fair-trial standards inherent in the procedure applicable to Colombian members of Congress in criminal matters can only be fully addressed through new legislation; is aware that enhanced legal protection for members of Congress is a very sensitive subject in Colombia, as it is easily perceived as unduly serving the interest of its members; expresses the hope, therefore, that the National Congress, along with the executive, judicial and administrative authorities, will come out together in support of new legislation that will introduce a genuine separation between the investigating authorities and the courts and a real possibility for members of Congress to appeal; wishes to be kept informed in this regard, in particular inasmuch as reform of this kind concerns the implementation of recommendations made by a previous IPU mission;

  6. Recalls that the American Convention on Human Rights and related jurisprudence provide extensive protection of the right to a fair trial; considers, therefore, that action by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is crucial to helping address the apparent injustice suffered by Mr. Araújo Castro; requests the Committee’s Vice-President and the Secretary General to contact the Inter-American Commission with a view to encouraging its swift consideration of Mr. Araújo Castro’s petition;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities and to the source;

  8. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.
Note: you can download a complete electronic version of the brochure "Results of the 128th IPU Assembly and related meetings" in PDF format (file size 1'058 Kb approximately). This version requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download free of charge.Get Acrobat Reader