Court rejects attempt to end investigation into former president Uribe

Colombia’s former president Álvaro Uribe could face trial after a court rejected a request by the Attorney General to end an investigation into alleged attempts of witness manipulation.

It is the latest development in a long-running legal dispute involving Uribe over claims that he sought to bribe paramilitaries to give false testimony against senator Iván Cepeda, who for several years has called for investigations into alleged links between Uribe and paramilitary groups.

In 2018, Uribe accused Cepeda of lying to incriminate him. However, the Supreme Court subsequently found that it was Uribe who had in fact illicitly manipulated witnesses, leading to two months of house detention for the former president in 2020. This saw Uribe resign his seat in congress, a move which his lawyers argued removed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over the case. Since then, the investigation has been presided over by the Attorney General’s office, which is thought to be a closer ally of Uribe.

Under Uribe’s presidency in 2002-10, paramilitaries and state forces committed massive human rights violations as the government escalated the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement. Uribe’s successor, Juan Manuel Santos, entered peace talks with the FARC which resulted in the 2016 peace agreement. Uribe’s Democratic Centre (CD) party, which the former president founded after leaving office, campaigned against the peace agreement.

The victory of the CD’s candidate, Iván Duque, in the 2018 presidential election raised fears over the future of the peace process due to the party’s strong opposition to the agreement. While the agreement has endured, it has faced multiple difficulties, particularly a human rights crisis that has claimed the lives of over one thousand social activists and 315 former FARC combatants, as well as the Duque government’s failure to meet its obligations to the agreement.