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Published On: Tue, Apr 18th, 2017

Colombia’s Ex-President Uribe, facing War Crimes Charges, lobbies in the USA against Peace and Transitional Justice

nsnbc : Colombia’s ex-president Alvaro Uribe who faces at least four war crimes charges within Colombia’s transitional justice system lobbies the U.S. Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump against the justice system and the peace process. Uribe denounces the transitional justice system that is part of the peace accord between the State and the FARC as “run by communist sympathizers”. The Administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is not amused and protests against what is describes as inappropriate lobbying activities.

Alvaro Uribe_Colombia_2017Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe went to the United States, complaining that Colombia’s transitional justice system was run by what he described as communist sympathizers. The transitional justice system was put in place within the framework of the peace accord between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP).  The accord ended 52 years of armed conflict between the State and the FARC. President Juan Manuel Santos under whose presidency the agreement was negotiated since 2011 (officially since 2012) is everything but a “communist sympathizer”. In fact, Santos rose to power as one of Uribe’s protegés.

False Positibes – Los Falsos Positivos - Alvaro Uribe is likely to face at least four major war crimes charges by the transitional justice system. Topping the list is involvement or criminal responsibility in the mass execution of some 4,000 civilians under the “false positives” (los falsos positivos) policy.

Los Falsos Positivos_ColombiaMembers of Colombia’s military forces have for years lured civilians into death traps, such as isolated areas or to areas near military bases, where they were murdered. After being killed these victims were dressed up as guerrilla under the “false positives” scheme. Members of the armed forces, including high-ranking military personnel were rewarded with promotions and other benefits.

The practice / policy has been observed since the 990s but became systematic and widespread when Uribe became commander in chief. In 2001 the office of Colombia’s prosecutor General had registered 31 such killings.

By 2007 this number had exploded to 1,1,19. About 40% of all reported combat kills that year turned out to be false positives – non-combatant civilians who had been murdered in cold blood and dressed up as “guerrilla”.

Uribe, who was president at the time, enjoys presidential immunity for these crimes. With the International Criminal Court (ICC) attempting to be granted jurisdiction over war crimes in Colombia, and with the ICC demanding that those who are ultimately responsible should be held accountable, Alvaro Uribe would surely have to top the ICC’s list of Colombians. However, many Colombians prefer the domestic transitional justice system that is based on the principles of honesty, admission of guilt, forgiveness or leniency for minor crimes and prison only for the most serious war crimes.

Responsibility for 77 killed by paramilitaries in Medellin. In 2007, during the Uribe presidency, both the Colombian military and paramilitary group AUC were carrying out a series of offensives in Medellin to rid the city’s of leftist militias. During one of the most notorious attacks codenamed “Operation Orion”, the National Army, the Medellin Police Department and paramilitary group BCB of legendary crime lord “Don Berna” cooperated to rid the east of the city of the last remaining communist militias. During this operation, the military opened fire from helicopters on the western Comuna 13, one of the most densely populated areas in the city. At the same time, paramilitary and security forces entered the area. A few days later the communist militias had been expelled and the right-wing paramilitary AUC had consolidated its control over the city under the leadership of Don Berna and the commander of the Bloque Metro, “Doble Cero.” The Colombian state has already been convicted for the war crimes committed during this operation by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. However, Alvaro Uribe who had ordered the operation, has yet to be indicted by Colombian justice.

Operation Genesis - Alvaro Uribe was the governor of Antioquia between 1995 and 1998 before he became president. Uribe was one of the most active promoters of the establishment of right-wing paramilitary groups to defend private and business interests. Then-president Cesar Gaviria legalized the formation of such groups in 1994. However, he reversed that decision in 1997 after the paramilitary groups began killing civilians on a massive scale. However, military and paramilitary forces were so entangled that the mass killings in joint operations continued. One of these operations was the so-called “Pacification of Uraba” in the northwest of Colombia. During the so-called “Operation Genesis,” paramilitary forces of the Elmer Cardenas Bloc of “El Aleman” entered the FARC-controlled region in collusion with Uribe’s governor’s office and in coordination with the National Army’s 17th Brigade. The FARC was successfully dislodged from the region. However, the operation also led to the displacement of some 3,500 and the summary execution of at least one person. The operation has since then led to the incarceration of General Rito Alejo del Rio and another conviction of the Colombian State by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. Uribe has so far rejected responsibility.

The El Aro Massacre - Alvaro Uribe has been explicitly named for his involvement in the 1997 massacre in the village of El Aro in Antioquia. Right-wing paramilitaries terrorized the population there and killed at least 14. Prosecutors in Medellin have been investigating Alvaro Uribe since 2005. The Medellin Superior Tribunal ordered the criminal investigation of the former president in 2015, so far without consequences. The massacre took place in October 1997 . More than a 100 paramilitaries seized control over El Aro, allegedly to search for FARC hostages. Paramilitaries executed 14 locals  during the three-day-long operations. Moreover, almost all cattle was stolen, the town set on fire and the local population displaced. The Colombian state has already convicted several persons for complicity in the massacre because, while the paramilitaries were killing the locals, a  helicopter from the Governor’s office was present at the site. The military allegedly looked the other way while the paramilitaries removed the cattle. Numerous witnesses have been assassinated but according to the court, the testimonies they left behind are enough to investigate Uribe’s alleged complicity.

Uribe Lobbies U.S. Congress and Trump – Decries  Transitional Justice as “Set up by Communist Sympathizers”

Before a planned official visit of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Alvaro Uribe and colleagues tour the United States to lobby against the peace process in Colombia. Sending a Tweet to U.S. Congress earlier this month Uribe decried the transitional justice system as “set up by communist sympathizers”. Over the weekend Colombian ex-president Andres Pastrana who served from 1998 to 2002 stated that he and ex-president Alvaro Uribe, who served from 2002 to 2010, has met with U.S. President Donald Trump at his Florida holiday resort.

Uribe’s and Pastrana’s alleged lobbying has been perceived as a major upset by the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos; Especially since Donald Trump has previously insinuated that it is uncertain whether he will keep the promises made by his predecessor Barack Obama, to financially support the peace process. Juan Manuel Santos has reportedly spoken personally to Trump about this issue but received no confirmation other than that the US president would “take care of it personally.”

Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo commented on the Uribe – Trump encounter saying that Uribe and Pastrana, due to their status as ex-presidents, may have overstepped their authorities if the promoted their political interests rather than Colombia’s national interests. In an interview on Blue Radio on Monday Naranjo stressed that “Presidents and their foreign ministers are those who really establish and maintain these relations” with foreign governments – (Read “and not ex-presidents and war crimes suspects on a rogue political mission”).

A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 18.04.2017

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