Former president and sitting senator Álvaro Uribe, currently under house arrest as he awaits trial for witness tampering charges, resigns his Senate seat. This shifts the prosecution of his case from the jurisdiction of Colombia’s Supreme Court to that of the Prosecutor-General’s office (Fiscalía).
The Supreme Court orders former President Álvaro Uribe, the most powerful politician in 21st century Colombia, placed under house arrest pending trial for tampering with witnesses. Uribe allegedly urged his lawyers to convince imprisoned former paramilitary members to give false testimony against a political rival, Senator Iván Cepeda. Uribe is confined to his ranch in Córdoba department, where he publishes a tweet falsely blaming his detention on “testimonies against me purchased by the FARC, its new generation, and its allies.”
An administrative tribunal in Cundinamarca temporarily suspends the activities of the U.S. Security Force Assistance Battalion, which had been on a high-profile advisory and training mission in Colombia since early June. The court finds in favor of 25 Colombian senators who argued that the Constitution requires that they autorize such deployments. The suspension is temporary while the Duque government turns information about the deployment over to the Congress.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) arrests social leader Yolanda González García in Arauca, accusing her of working with FARC dissidents. Soldiers wounded González, and killed her government-funded bodyguard, at a vehicle checkpoint on September 19, 2019, in an incident that remains under investigation. In a statement, Colombia’s national human rights platforms call González’s arrest a “setup” and an effort “to destroy her physically and morally.”
The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation denounces seven arrests of social leaders or demobilized combatants in Arauca in recent days, “for which they have been charged with a series of crimes without corroborating the facts.”
The president of the State Council, the Supreme Court chamber that deals with administrative issues, sends a letter to President Duque requesting an explanation of the deployment, announced May 28, of a 53-person U.S. military Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB). Magistrate Álvaro Namén notes that Colombia’s constitution requires the State Council to be consulted about the transit of foreign troops through national territory.
A court in Nariño orders a halt to virtual online consultations with communities in remote areas to discuss the environmental impact of renewed aerial herbicide eradication of coca. The court was responding to a complaint filed by communities fearful of being fumigated with herbicides without proper consultation. In order to restart the U.S.-backed fumigation program, Colombia’s Constitutional Court had required the environmental licensing agency ANLA to consult with communities on an eradication plan. COVID-19 had made those consultations impossible to carry out in person, so the agency had sought to perform them over internet, even though many of the affected rural communities have little or no internet access. The court’s order may delay the reinitiation of fumigation, originally expected for mid-2020.
Colombia’s Supreme Court opens a new investigation of former president and ruling-party Senator Álvaro Uribe. The Court begins looking into allegations that Uribe may been the beneficiary of military units’ illegal intelligence-gathering activities against civilians, carried out throughout 2019 in what has become a major scandal. The Court is already investigating the former president for allegations of encouraging witnesses, some of them former paramilitary members, to give false testimony against a political rival.
A presidential decree lowers judicial penalties to members of criminal groups who agree to demobilize peacefully and submit to the High Commissioner for Peace.
It does not apply to the ELN, whose “political character” the state recognizes, making benefits available to individual ELN deserters. It applies instead to FARC dissident groups, the Gulf Clan and Caparros neo-paramilitary groups, and the Pelusos or EPL. These are the groups that, according to the government, meet the Geneva Conventions Protocol II definition of those “which, under responsible command, exercise such control over a part of its territory as to enable them to carry out sustained and concerted military operations.”
The Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) and Ministry of Justice submit an extradition request to the United States for Salvatore Mancuso, the former maximum leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group. The government of Álvaro Uribe extradited Mancuso and 13 other paramilitary leaders to the United States to face drug-trafficking charges in 2008; Mancuso is about to complete his U.S. sentence.
- Police capture Gerardo Antonio Bermúdez, also known as “Francisco Galán,” a former ELN guerrilla who served as a key link to the group during past efforts to negotiate peace. A judge in Cali seeks to try Galán for his possible role in a September 2000 mass kidnapping on the highway between Cali and Buenaventura.
- Galán is known as a peace promoter who has served a complete term in prison and has long since abandoned violence. His arrest inspires an outcry across the political spectrum, including a tweet from former President Álvaro Uribe.
- Hopes for a prompt resolution of the status of 16 special temporary congressional seats for conflict victims are dashed, as opponents’ delaying tactics prevent the State Council (one of Colombia’s high courts) from meeting to decide the issue.
- The peace accord had resolved to create the 16 temporary legislative seats, in which victims’ associations—not political parties—would be able to run for office to represent historically conflictive zones. The measure to create the seats won a majority in Colombia’ Senate in 2017, but disagreement over whether a numerical quorum existed for that vote remains unresolved.
- In Bogotá, police arrest former FARC leader Ely Mejía Morales, alias “Martín Sombra.” Though he has been reportedly cooperating with the demobilization and transitional justice process, “Sombra” stands accused of playing a role in the ransom kidnapping of a rancher in Caquetá in 2017, after the peace accord went into effect. Martín Sombra is also known as the “jailer of the FARC” for his role in managing camps where the group kept kidnap victims for months or years at a time.
- Colombia’s Supreme Court announces its choice of Francisco Barbosa, a lawyer who had been President Duque’s human rights advisor, to be the country’s next prosecutor-general (Fiscal-General).
- A civilian judge sends to preventive prison, pending trial, an Army colonel who allegedly green-lighted the April 22 murder of former FARC combatant Dimar Torres in Catatumbo. “This man should be killed,” Col. Jorge Armando Pérez Amézquita reportedly said of Torres, whose murder by soldiers caused a national outcry. “We can’t stand to see him captured only to get fat in jail.” The corporal who carried out the deed was sentenced to 20 years in prison in late 2019.
- A cover story in the Colombian weekly Semana reveals that Army intelligence units have been illegally intercepting the communications of, following, and threatening high-court judges, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, and journalists—including Semana reporters investigating military human rights and corruption allegations. Those being followed and intimidated include Army officers who had been providing information to investigators about these allegations.
- The magazine speculates that revelations about the illegal intelligence operation—the product of a dramatic judicial police raid on Army intelligence facilities in mid-December—forced the late-December exit of the Army’s chief, Gen. Nicacio Martínez. Gen. Martínez denies that he retired for this reason, blaming “retaliation” from elsewhere in the army “for denouncing and preventing corrupt acts.”
- Semana hints that Army personnel were passing information from intercepted communications to a legislator in the government’s party, the Democratic Center. Much speculation centers on Senator Álvaro Uribe, who was embroiled in a wiretapping scandal during the latter years of his 2002-2010 presidency. One of those being wiretapped is a Supreme Court justice in charge of a case against the former president, who is under investigation for witness tampering.
- Supreme Court President Álvaro García calls for a special investigation.
- The Inter-American Human Rights Commission expresses “deep concern” about the revelations.