UPDATE: Criminalisation of the Opposition Campaign

Justice For Colombia News | on: Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Colombian regime is continuing its efforts to silence critics with ongoing spurious legal proceedings against some of the most high-profile opposition figures in the country. Those accused include several opposition members of Congress, a former Minister and presidential candidate, two journalists who have been critical of the regime, and a human rights activist involved in high-profile international trade union work. In an effort to discredit them and their work, all have been accused of links to leftwing FARC guerrillas.

The list of those accused reads like a Who's Who of Colombia's foremost opposition figures, but seems targeted especially at those that have played a role in trying to promote a peace process in Colombia. Some of them, such as Liberal Party Senator Piedad Cordoba (who has negotiated the release of several hostages), opposition newspaper editor Dr Carlos Lozano (also a member of the National Directorate of the Democratic Pole opposition party who was recently awarded the Legion d'Honneur by president Nicolas Sarkozy of France for his efforts to promote peace) and former Conservative Party Minister Dr Alvaro Leyva (involved in efforts to secure a humanitarian agreement), were actually authorised by the Colombian Government to make contact with the FARC in recent years in order to open channels of dialogue. That same authorised contact is now being used against them.

Much of the so-called evidence being used against the opposition figures consists of e-mails that were allegedly found on a captured FARC laptop. But despite an Interpol investigation finding that the information on the laptop had been manipulated by the Colombian security services – meaning that it would not stand up in any bona fide court – the Colombian regime is insisting on proceeding with legal cases against their political opponents. Further evidence of the deceitfulness involved came to light in December when Colombian Police Captain Ronald Ayden Coy Ortiz, the official responsible for the initial examination of the laptop after it was captured, confirmed that, at least when he examined it, no e-mails were on it.

The motivation of the Colombian regime appears to be the same as that which has lead to the murders of thousands of trade unionists, human rights defenders, student leaders and journalists in Colombia in recent years: An attempt to silence critics through intimidation, fear, judicial proceedings or physical violence.

As the Colombian authorities are all too aware, when accusations of working with the FARC are made against members of civil society, they are often followed by assassinations carried out by the notorious paramilitary death squads that work alongside of the Colombian Army. Already the security situation for most of those accused has deteriorated drastically, with the daily threat of assassination ever increasing.

Below is information on each of those accused and the stage at which their case is at:

The anti-terrorism unit of the Attorney General's office is responsible for the cases of Dr Carlos Lozano, Dr Alvaro Leyva, Liliany Obando (an academic and human rights defender involved in building international support for the trade union movement), Lazaro Viveros (former peace adviser to Conservative Party President Andres Pastrana [1998-2002]), and William Parra, (former press spokesman for Liberal Party President Ernesto Samper [1994-1998], now a freelance journalist working for Venezuelan-based TV station Telesur).

Liliany Obando has already been imprisoned without trial in Bogotá's women prison – for more information click here.

After an investigation and various testimonies taken by the unit, Dr Carlos Lozano is still awaiting a decision as to whether they will continue with the case against him and possibly imprison him while investigations continue. He has been kept in this uncertain limbo for months, knowing that he could be jailed at any time.

The other three individuals are still in the preliminary investigation stage.

In the case of the opposition politicians that have been accused, the responsibility for their cases resides in the Supreme Court. All three, Senator Piedad Cordoba (Liberal Party), Senator Gloria Ramirez, (the former leader of the teachers' trade union, now a senator for the Democratic Pole) and Congressman Wilson Borja, (the former leader of the public sector workers trade union and the current Democratic Pole member of Congress for the Colombian capital Bogota) are in the stage of preliminary investigation.

Please take a moment to visit the 'Stop the Criminalisation of the Opposition' page to find out what you can do to help end these attacks on those who stand up for peace and human rights in Colombia. Only with international pressure, will the Colombian Government be forced to stop harassing, jailing and endangering the lives of their critics.



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