V. The Parapolitics Investigations

While the Justice and Peace Law confessions have helped cast some light on paramilitaries’ crimes and networks, the most important progress in uncovering paramilitaries’ influence in the political system has been achieved through ground-breaking judicial investigations that have employed the ordinary tools of criminal law. As of this writing, more than 30 senators and members of the Colombian Congress are in detention and several dozen more are under investigation for collaborating with paramilitaries, in what has come to be known as the parapolitics scandal. The former director of national intelligence, as well as numerous governors, mayors, and other officials have also come under investigation for similar activities.

The bulk of the credit for these investigations goes to the Colombian Supreme Court’s criminal chamber, which starting in 2005 took the lead in launching investigations of members of Congress for paramilitary links. For years, there had been reports in Colombia of collusion between paramilitaries and public officials, but there had been little progress in investigations of these claims. The Court’s initiation of these investigations in an organized and focused manner is an unprecedented development. The investigations have also benefited from the work of prosecutors, media, and civil society groups, which have uncovered a large amount of information about links between paramilitaries and politicians.

The Attorney General’s Office also played an important role in some key cases, though it has at times appeared timid or slow, and has made some controversial decisions.

Unfortunately, while the government has provided funding to the Supreme Court for these investigations, the Uribe administration has often taken steps that threaten to undermine the investigations and do serious damage to the independence of the judiciary. It has blocked serious and badly needed efforts at reforming the Congress to prevent paramilitaries’ continued influence. And it has recently proposed constitutional amendments that would remove investigations of Congress from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. If approved, those proposed reforms could be a fatal blow to the parapolitics investigations.

Meanwhile, there appears to have been little progress in cases that are under the jurisdiction of the Congress itself. Only the Committee on Accusations of the House of Representatives may investigate sitting or former attorney generals, as well as the president.295 The majority of the members of that committee belong to the coalition of President Uribe. Complaints about former Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio’s alleged involvement with paramilitaries have been pending before the Committee on Accusations for years with little apparent progress.296 Recent allegations against President Uribe are also under that committee’s jurisdiction.

Background on Supreme Court Investigations

As early as 2002, Salvatore Mancuso told journalists that during that year’s congressional elections the paramilitaries hoped to win 30 percent of the seats in Congress. 297 And after the elections, Mancuso had bragged that “the original goal of 35 percent has been by far exceeded, and it constitutes a landmark in the history of the AUC.”298 Three years later, in June 2005, paramilitary leader Vicente Castaño told Semana magazine “we have more than 35 percent of friends in Congress. And by the next elections we are going to increase that percentage.”299

This series of statements by paramilitary commanders prompted politician Clara López Obregón to file a criminal complaint calling on authorities to investigate the possible infiltration of Congress.300 The complaint ended up with the Supreme Court—the only judicial authority with the jurisdiction to investigate sitting congressmen. 301

In the following months, Justice Álvaro Pérez, with the support of auxiliary Justice Iván Velásquez, began an investigation of the allegations, calling on Mancuso and Castaño to testify.

Around the same time political analyst Claudia López published a study of the 2002 elections describing highly irregular voting patterns that appeared to indicate that paramilitaries were able to assign specific pairs of candidates (one for the Senate and one for the Chamber of Representatives) for each electoral district where they exerted territorial control. In each case, López found, the pair of candidates backed by the paramilitaries won by overwhelming and highly atypical majorities.302

López observed:

The [paramilitaries’] political consolidation was not achieved by giving out kind pieces of advice so that people could “freely” decide, as Mancuso has cynically stated before the Court and the media. The advice was not given nicely. They didn’t expel the guerrillas, as they proudly proclaim, with speeches and doves, but rather by equaling their demented barbarity. The pattern that appears to repeat itself is that of entering with massacres, carrying out selective homicides, securing military control, going into the political system and local economies and consolidating their political hegemony in elections, and the economic hegemony in multiple businesses spanning the use of public resources, the state lottery, palm, contraband in gasoline and drug trafficking.303

In 2006, a scandal broke out over statements made to the media by Rafael García, a former DAS information technology chief who pled guilty to collaborating with paramilitaries. Among many allegations, García described in detail the paramilitaries’ strategy to manipulate the 2002 congressional and presidential elections in the state of Magdalena.304 García has, over the years, provided significant testimony in this regard that corroborates Claudia López’s research and other studies.

Meanwhile, the Court was making progress in investigations of politicians from the state of Sucre, digging up evidence, witnesses, and information from its various offices and from the Attorney General’s Office.

Up to that point, investigations had been conducted separately by each justice of the Supreme Court. However, as the evidence, complaints, and revelations started mounting, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court determined that, to conduct the investigations more effectively, the whole chamber would investigate them together, charging a special team of five assistant justices with systematizing and carrying out the investigations. It is this team that has gone on to make the most progress in investigations.

In addition to the testimony of García and the Claudia López study, the team has found other witnesses, recordings, and documentary evidence that have allowed it to make rapid progress on these cases. Some evidence came from Jorge 40’s laptop, which included recorded conversations between paramilitaries and politicians. Information also came to light about a meeting of paramilitary leaders with several politicians, in which the politicians had signed a pact with the paramilitaries to “refound the nation.”305

The Role of the Attorney General’s Office

Most of the high-profile investigations of congressmen have been initiated by the Supreme Court. However, once charged by the Court, the politicians in question have usually chosen to resign. In that situation, the case gets transferred to the Attorney General’s Office.306

In addition, the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to initiate investigations on its own involving governors, mayors, members of the military, or—in several cases—former congressmen. Therefore, it has been up to the Attorney General’s Office to initiate and push forward those investigations.

The record of the Attorney General’s Office is mixed. In some cases, it has made important progress. It has also at times taken decisions that were politically difficult—such as the decision to order the arrest of Sen. Mario Uribe, President Uribe’s cousin and closest political ally, though it later reversed that decision. At times, however, the office has appeared timid, failing to aggressively pursue evidentiary leads, or it has been slow to act.

Because most cases initiated by the Supreme Court against congressmen are likely to end up being managed by the Attorney General’s Office, it is crucial that this office organize itself in such a way as to conduct the investigations effectively, and minimize errors.

Below we describe the status of some of the most prominent cases handled by the Office of the Attorney General, highlight progress in some cases, and point to concerns in others.

Status of Prominent Cases

The Álvaro Araújo Investigation

The investigations involving Sen. Álvaro Araújo are particularly significant because his arrest prompted the resignation of his sister, María Consuelo Araújo, who was then serving as foreign minister.307 The Supreme Court indicted Araújo for conspiring with Jorge 40 in connection with the 2002 congressional elections. It also charged him with the aggravated kidnapping of Victor Ochoa Daza, the brother of then-mayor of Valledupar Elías Ochoa Daza, as part of a broader political strategy to take over control of the northern coast of Colombia, along with Jorge 40.308

After Álvaro Araújo resigned from his congressional seat, the case was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office and assigned to a specialized prosecutor in the Unit of Prosecutors Delegated before the Supreme Court, which is usually charged with investigating congressmen after they resign from their seats. That prosecutor, on August 22, 2007, formulated a formal “accusation” (the next step in the criminal proceeding) against Araújo on charges of aggravated conspiracy, aggravated extortive kidnapping, and constraining voters.309

However, on January 18, 2008, deputy Attorney General Guillermo Mendoza Diago partially granted an appeal by Araújo, nullifying the kidnapping accusation against him. Mendoza Diago concluded that the Office of the Attorney General had made a mistake in assigning the investigation for kidnapping to the prosecutor from the Unit of Prosecutors Delegated before the Supreme Court. Araújo’s father (also a former congressman) was simultaneously under investigation for the same kidnapping (which they allegedly committed together), but he was being investigated by another prosecutor. According to Mendoza Diago, the two investigations should have been combined. Thus, the kidnapping investigation of Sen. Araújo was nullified and sent to the other prosecutor.310 The decision has been controversial among some legal experts. The accusations against him for conspiracy and constraining voters remain intact, however, and the kidnapping investigation against both Araújo and his father is now in the hands of another prosecutor.

In September 2008, Venezuelan authorities arrested Sen. Araújo’s father, who is also a former minister of agriculture, on the kidnapping charges, and later deported him to Colombia.311

The Mario Uribe Investigation

On September 26, 2007, the Supreme Court indicted Sen. Mario Uribe for conspiring with paramilitaries. The decision was of great significance because of the high profile of Sen. Uribe. Mario Uribe is a second cousin of President Álvaro Uribe and they have a close and longstanding political alliance. The two of them co-founded a branch of the Liberal Party called Sector Democrático in the 1980s. They both ran for Congress in 1986, with Álvaro becoming senator and Mario becoming a representative. When Álvaro Uribe became governor of Antioquia in 1994, Mario was elected to the Senate. Mario’s political movement, Colombia Democrática, strongly supported Alvaro’s bid for the presidency in 2002. Later, Mario Uribe was a leading proponent of two of Alvaro Uribe’s most controversial initiatives in the Congress: the Alternative Penalties Law (a predecessor to the Justice and Peace Law) and the amendment to the Colombian Constitution that allowed Álvaro Uribe’s reelection as president in 2006.312

Sen. Uribe resigned his Senate seat shortly after the indictment, and so the investigation was transferred to the Office of the Attorney General, where it was assigned to prosecutor Ramiro Marín. On April 21, 2008, Marín ordered Mario Uribe’s arrest.313 Uribe found out about the arrest warrant and fled to the embassy of Costa Rica, where he sought political asylum. The asylum request was denied and on April 22 Mario Uribe was arrested.314

Human Rights Watch reviewed the prosecutorial resolution ordering Mario Uribe’s arrest. The decision was based primarily on the following pieces of evidence, mentioned in the resolution:

First, Salvatore Mancuso testified, first in his Justice and Peace confession and then again before the Supreme Court, that he had met with Mario Uribe on two occasions. During one of those meetings, Mancuso said, Mario Uribe and Eleonora Pineda (a former hairdresser who was running for a seat as a representative in the same region as Mario Uribe, with the backing of the AUC) visited Mancuso in a rural area in the paramilitary-controlled municipality of Tierralta, Córdoba, where Mancuso was hiding due to the criminal convictions and charges pending against him. In his first statement Mancuso said he was not certain of the exact date or order of the meetings; however he later said that the first meeting definitely happened before the 2002 congressional elections. Mancuso said that the meeting had two goals: first, to formalize in front of him a political agreement between Uribe and Pineda by which the two of them would help each other get votes in some areas of Córdoba. According to Mancuso, Sen. Uribe had to have known that Pineda was a candidate of the paramilitaries, as that was why the two of them had gone to Tierralta to visit him. Mancuso added that at the meeting Sen. Uribe committed himself to support the paramilitaries’ efforts to initiate negotiations with the government. 315

Mancuso said that the other meeting happened when Sen. Uribe once again went to Tierralta to meet with Carlos Castaño; according to Mancuso, because Castaño was busy at the time, he asked Mancuso to meet with Sen. Uribe to once again discuss the negotiations with the government.316

Sen. Uribe claimed that there was only one meeting and that it was not planned: he said that Eleonora had invited him to lunch with some friends in her house, but she surprised him by instead taking him to Mancuso’s ranch. Uribe said that the meeting happened after the 2002 elections. Eleonora Pineda also said the meeting happened after the elections, in 2002, and that she did not initially explain to Mario Uribe that they were going to meet with Mancuso—though she said she did explain it to him as they were on their way. Also, Pineda noted that when they were on their way to meet with Mancuso, at one point she asked Mario Uribe to leave all his escorts and other companions behind for the last stretch of the road trip.317

The prosecutor chose to believe Mancuso’s version of events over the versions given by Uribe and Pineda. He pointed out that Pineda was close to Mario Uribe, who the prosecutor notes allowed her to join his political movement, even though he obviously knew of her relationship with the paramilitaries.318 Indeed, starting in 2002 Pineda and Rocio Arias, another congresswoman, were the two most active and open defenders of the paramilitaries’ positions in Congress; they have both pled guilty to conspiring with paramilitaries.319 Yet Mario Uribe, who was the leader of the Colombia Democrática party, allowed both of them to remain within the ranks of the party until February of 2006, when it was reported in the Colombian media that US officials had warned that party leaders who kept politicians linked to paramilitaries in their ranks might have their US visas revoked.320

Another factor that might affect Pineda’s testimony is fear. On October 5, 2007, shortly after Pineda pled guilty, one of her brothers was killed in the state of Córdoba; according to news reports, members of the military shot him, claiming he was a member of an armed group and had opened fire on them. Pineda’s lawyer asserted that her brother’s killing was meant to silence Pineda.321

Also, the prosecutor points out that there is another important piece of evidence against Mario Uribe that tips the scale in favor of Mancuso’s version of events: the unusual and very high spike in votes for Mario Uribe in the 2002 elections. Specifically, Sen. Uribe went from getting 3,985 votes in the 1998 elections to nearly triple that amount—11,136 votes—in the 2002 elections. That’s the time when, if Mancuso’s version is correct, he presumably would have benefited from the votes that Eleonora Pineda, with paramilitary backing, could have brought him. By the 2006 elections, when he had expelled Eleonora from the party, his votes once again dropped to 3,233.322

According to the prosecutor’s analysis, the unusual voting patterns are particularly noticeable in the municipalities, such as Montelíbano, Sahagún, and Planeta Rica, where Mancuso had supposedly ordered that people vote for Pineda and Uribe. The prosecutor explains that the paramilitaries apparently divided up the municipalities, ordering that some vote for Uribe and others for another candidate—Miguel de la Espriella—who was also elected to the Senate. Mancuso stated that de la Espriella had been upset with Mancuso for offering some share of his votes to Mario Uribe, but Mancuso calmed him down by assuring him that he would be elected anyway. The prosecutor notes that De la Espriella lost votes in some municipalities in 2002 compared to the 1998 elections—and argues that Mario Uribe got those votes instead.

The prosecutor did not accept Mario Uribe’s argument that the spike in votes for him was due to his association with the presidential candidate, Alvaro Uribe, because that argument would not explain the 2006 drop in votes (when Alvaro Uribe was once again running for president, with even higher popularity in the polls).323

In addition to the allegations about Uribe’s dealings with Mancuso in connection with the 2002 elections, the charges against Sen. Uribe are based on allegations that Sen. Uribe sought to work with the paramilitaries to pressure landowners to sell or give him cheap land in 1998. The allegations are based on the testimony of witness Jairo Castillo Peralta, also known as “Pitirri.” Castillo is a former paramilitary who operated in the state of Sucre. After leaving the paramilitaries’ ranks in the late 1990s, he began providing testimony to prosecutors in several cases. He now has political asylum in Canada and has continued testifying before the Colombian Supreme Court and prosecutors in the parapolitics cases.

Castillo has testified that in 1998 he participated in a meeting with Mario Uribe and landowners, including Olegario Otero Bula, in Sahagun, Cordoba. According to Castillo’s testimony, Mario Uribe was seeking “cheap land,” and Castillo was ordered to look for such land, determine what people in the region were making payments to the paramilitaries, and seek out the ones—such as Mrs. Luz Marina Zapa—who had not been “paying their quota.” 324

Castillo says that another of the ranches being targeted was “La Alemania,” which belonged to Rafael Zuleta. However, according to Castillo, he did not agree with the idea of targeting La Alemania because Zuleta had been cooperating with the group; also, Castillo says he was grateful to Zuleta (who he says had at times loaned Castillo money, years before, when Castillo was a rice farmer and Zuleta traded in grains). As a result, Castillo says he warned Zuleta that he might come under pressure over La Alemania.

Luz Marina Zapa also testified and, according to the prosecutor, her testimony was consistent with Castillo’s. She described how initially she had sought out Castillo to ask him for his help in locating her husband, who had been kidnapped. She said initially he had been helpful, but later started to demand payments. Castillo agrees that he initially was going to help Mrs. Zapa, but had to change his behavior towards her because he had been given the order to demand money from her. When he went to collect the extortion money, Castillo was arrested—the prosecutor says that Castillo claims the arrest was a trap set for him by Otero Bula, who had learned of Castillo’s warnings to Zuleta. The prosecutor notes that once Castillo started to cooperate with then-prosecutor Yolanda Paternina (who was subsequently assassinated), there was an attempt on his life, which led to his eventual departure for Canada.

The prosecutor notes that Zuleta acknowledges having known Castillo from the days when Castillo was a rice farmer, but denies having been warned by Castillo about any effort to pressure him to give up his land. He accuses Castillo of being a liar, though he acknowledges having been the victim of persecution by paramilitaries and guerrillas. He also acknowledges that he did sell the La Alemania ranch in 2003 to “get out of a situation that for me was too disturbing.” He says that he never met the buyer, that he probably did not receive a fair price, and that the purchase probably had something to do with an armed group.325

A few months after his arrest, Mario Uribe was once again set free. Deputy Attorney General Guillermo Mendoza Diago granted an appeal Uribe made from the resolution ordering his arrest.326 In his decision reviewing the arrest order, Mendoza Diago goes over the evidence against Sen. Uribe and reaches the opposite conclusion from that reached by the prosecutor.

First, Mendoza Diago concludes that Mancuso’s testimony against Sen. Uribe is not credible, due to his initial hesitation about whether he met with Mario Uribe once or twice. Mendoza Diago says that Eleonora Pineda’s statements about the date of the meeting (after the elections) are more credible because he says she did not hesitate in describing them; also, he says, Eleonora Pineda was Mancuso’s political creation, and so she would have more reasons to side with Mancuso than with Mario Uribe. In addition, Mendoza Diago argues that Mancuso seemed confused about the subject of the meeting, whereas Pineda, he says, was clear in that the subject of the meeting was solely the discussion of the paramilitaries’ negotiations with the government.

Mendoza Diago also does not find the voting patterns to be a significant piece of evidence against Mario Uribe. Noting that the voting pattern was certainly “unusual,” Mendoza Diago concludes that the spike is most likely due to Sen. Uribe’s association with President Uribe, as well as an agreement Sen. Uribe struck with a local political leader who helped get him votes.

Finally, Mendoza Diago concludes that Castillos’ testimony is weak and contradicted by the other witnesses (whom Castillo had implicated). The fact that Castillo’s testimony is consistent with that of Mrs. Zapa, he says, is irrelevant as it simply proves that Castillo was extorting Mrs. Zapa.

Based on this analysis, Mendoza Diago concluded that the evidence against Mario Uribe was insufficient to justify his detention and ordered his release.327

After the release, prosecutor Ramiro Marín, who had ordered Sen. Uribe’s detention, resigned, claiming that sources within the Attorney General’s Office had been unfairly attacking him for supposedly conducting a weak investigation.328

The case against Mario Uribe is not closed. But it is unclear how it will progress after the deputy attorney general’s decision and the resignation of the prosecutor handling the investigation. It is likely to suffer some delays as a new prosecutor will have to be brought up to speed on the investigation.

Initial Progress in Cases Related to Jorge 40’s Computer

As a result of the discovery of Jorge 40’s computer, the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office reported to Human Rights Watch that it opened 14 cases in which 66 people have come under investigation, another 44 are on trial, and 2 (including paramilitary leader Edgar Ignacio Fierro, alias Don Antonio) have pled guilty.329

One of those reportedly under investigation is Javier Alfredo Valle Anaya, former deputy director of the DAS office in Santa Marta. According to news reports, Valle’s name appears in one of the computer files as a “friend” of the paramilitary group headed by Jorge 40, and Don Antonio has also said he collaborated with him.330 The same reports indicate that Valle may have been involved in orchestrating the assassination of sociology professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis by members of Jorge 40’s group.331

In addition, in collaboration with the National Judicial Police, the Attorney General’s Office in 2007 appears to have dealt an important blow to a paramilitary group known as “Los 40” that was operating along the Pacific coast. The group, which was reportedly headed by some of Jorge 40’s henchmen, was engaging in extortion and a variety of other criminal activities in Barranquilla and other cities in the coast. In August 2007, police arrested 50 alleged members of the group, including 18 members of the local police department, as well as members of the local intelligence services and the navy and two hospital directors, on top of 46 previously detained individuals.332

Delays and Cases of Concern in the Attorney General’s Office

Delays in Initiating Investigations

In some cases, the Attorney General’s Office has appeared to be slow to initiate investigations of politicians linked to paramilitaries.

For example, in early 2007, the Court initiated an investigation into Magdalena Sen. Dieb Maloof and ordered his arrest.333 At the same time, sources told Human Rights Watch, the Court asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate Jorge Castro Pacheco, who had run for office alongside Maloof as his alternate for the senate seat.334 The Court also asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate former congressmen Salomón Saade and José Gamarra, also from the state of Magdalena.335 The Court could not itself investigate these individuals, as they were not at the time sitting congressmen, but the Attorney General’s Office could have, and indeed, should have done so.

Castro, Saade, and Gamarra had all been accused by witness Rafael García of participation in electoral fraud along with the Northern Block paramilitaries in 2002.336 In fact, the evidence against Saade, Gamarra, and Castro was, for the most part, the same as the evidence supporting the Court’s investigation of Maloof.337

Yet while the investigation of Maloof has already resulted in a conviction,338 for a long period the Attorney General’s Office appeared not to move at all on the investigations of Saade, Gamarra, and Castro.

In October 2007, Dieb Maloof resigned his Senate seat. Jorge Castro, his alternate, stepped in to replace Maloof.339 In early February 2008, the Supreme Court opened a formal investigation of Castro, who now fell under its jurisdiction.340

When Castro resigned in mid-February, the Supreme Court issued a statement calling into question the long delay by the Attorney General’s Office in initiating an investigation into Castro.341

Finally, in March 2008, a year after the Court had first asked the Attorney General’s Office to initiate the investigations, prosecutors opened a formal investigation into Castro, José Gamarra, and Salomón Saade. Attorney General Mario Iguarán publicly stated that the errors in this case had been corrected, and that the prosecutor in charge had been removed from her position. 342

Colombian Sen. Gina Parody recently sent a letter to Iguarán calling on him to ensure that the office moves more rapidly in the investigation of several cases involving regional and local politicians. Specifically, Sen. Parody inquired about the investigation of politicians who signed onto two pacts with paramilitaries, known as the pacts of “Chivolo” and “Pivijay.” The letter notes that more than 200 persons are estimated to have signed the Chivolo pact, yet prosecutors had only opened an investigation into one person. Sen. Parody stated that some congressmen have already been convicted in connection with the Pivijay pact, but “their partners in the regions remain free and continue governing.” Sen. Parody also expressed frustration at the office for failing to respond to previous inquiries about the progress of investigations into the killings of 21 local and regional officials around the time the pacts were signed, seven years ago. The letter notes that “the parapolitics cases in Congress, which have mostly been handled by the Supreme Court, are only a minimal part of the phenomenon of macrocriminality that took over the regions, is reproducing, and wants to perpetuate itself there. It’s useless to convict the congressmen if in the regions the structure remains intact.”343

Attorney General Iguarán told Human Rights Watch that his office had made a lot of progress in cases involving parapolitics in the states of Magdalena and Cesar. With respect to these particular cases, he said, “I found a dusty old file, and … six or seven months ago I had it brought back, and now they’ve been making progress.”344

The Attorney General’s Office has also been slow to respond to Supreme Court inquiries in other cases. On October 4, 2007, the Court’s Criminal Chamber wrote to Attorney General Mario Iguarán asking for basic information—prosecutor assigned to the case, case number, and current state of the investigation—with respect to 48 investigations that the Court had transferred to the Attorney General’s Office or had asked the office to open.345 These included investigations into congressmen, governors (including the current governor of the state of Antioquia), mayors, and members of the intelligence service, police, and armed forces. The attorney general did not respond to the letter, so on January 23, 2008, the Supreme Court reiterated the request. 346 According to various sources, since then the Office of the Attorney General has taken action on several of the cases that were the subject of the request, but it has never provided a written response to the Court’s letter. 347

The Noguera Cases: Progress, Procedural Flaws and Failure to Follow Evidentiary Leads

Jorge Noguera was the 2002 presidential campaign manager in the state of Magdalena for President Uribe, and then served as Uribe’s national DAS director from 2002 to 2005. At the end of 2005, he left the DAS in the midst of a corruption scandal, which resulted in the arrest of Rafael García, the head of information technology of that institution, who was charged with and eventually convicted of erasing or otherwise altering official records.348

President Uribe then appointed Noguera as Colombian consul in Milan, Italy. However, in mid-2006, García began to make public allegations claiming that the DAS under Noguera had closely collaborated with paramilitaries, primarily with Jorge 40’s North Block. García said, for example, that the DAS had provided the paramilitaries with a list of labor union leaders and academics to be targeted, many of whom were subsequently threatened or killed. He also alleged that he and Noguera had worked closely with the paramilitaries in the state of Magdalena to carry out massive electoral fraud in favor of President Uribe during the 2002 presidential elections.349 The allegations and evidence against Noguera were serious enough that in December 2006 the United States revoked Noguera’s U.S. visa. The Attorney General’s Office ordered his arrest shortly afterwards, in February 2007. 350

Both Noguera and Uribe denied the charges when they were first made public and Uribe lashed out aggressively against the media for reporting the allegations, accusing the publications and journalist involved of harming democracy.351 Uribe repeatedly defended Noguera in public statements for months afterwards.352 It was only in February 2007, once the Attorney General’s Office ordered Noguera’s arrest, that Uribe publicly distanced himself from Noguera, stating that “if he is convicted, my duty will be to offer my apologies to the nation.”353

Yet even while Noguera was in detention, Noguera’s lawyer, Orlando Perdomo, was able to enter the Presidential Palace on eight occasions over the course of six weeks between February 2, 2007, and March 16, 2007, (he previously entered once in 2006 as well).354 During these visits, according to reports by the presidential office itself, Perdomo on some occasions met with President Uribe himself along with Mauricio González, then the legal secretary for the president (and now a Constitutional Court justice). The purpose of all these meetings, according to official reports, was to discuss Noguera’s prison conditions. 355

Over time several of García’s allegations have been corroborated by other evidence. For example, the Attorney General’s Office is reported to have obtained evidence indicating that Jorge 40’s cousin, Álvaro Pupo, visited Noguera on numerous occasions at his office in the DAS—García had previously testified that Pupo was Noguera’s liaison with Jorge 40.356 Similarly, prosecutors reportedly confirmed García’s claim that during Noguera’s tenure, paramilitary commander Hernán Giraldo’s file was erased from the DAS computer system.357

But the investigations of Noguera by the Attorney General’s Office have also suffered from a series of procedural difficulties. And one of the most potentially explosive investigations—the investigation into electoral fraud in the 2002 presidential elections—was shut down shortly after it was opened.

Charges for Collusion with Paramilitaries

Noguera has already been the subject of disciplinary sanctions from the Colombian Inspector General’s Office for colluding with paramilitaries from Jorge 40’s and Hernán Giraldo’s groups, altering records, and corruption.358 The Attorney General’s Office in early 2008 announced that it was formally charging Jorge Noguera with aggravated conspiracy for having allegedly colluded with paramilitaries when he served as President Uribe’s intelligence director between 2002 and 2005.359

However, the charges against Noguera were recently dismissed, and must be refiled, due to Attorney General Iguarán’s decision to assign the investigation to one of his prosecutors, instead of conducting the investigation directly himself.

As early as March 2007, a judge from the Superior Council of the Magistracy, Leonor Perdomo, had ordered Noguera’s release pursuant to a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Perdomo ruled that because of his public functions, Noguera was entitled to be prosecuted directly by the attorney general, and that the attorney general could not, as he had done, delegate the investigation to another prosecutor.360 Iguarán expressed his surprise and disagreement with the ruling, and filed an appeal. 361 According to Iguarán, the appeal was decided by deputy attorney general Mendoza Diago, who ruled in Iguarán’s favor. Therefore, he continued delegating investigative functions to another prosecutor.362

A year later, however, Noguera filed a motion for dismissal of the case against him because Iguarán had continued to delegate his functions to another prosecutor. The Supreme Court agreed with Noguera, ruling in June 2008 that Iguarán had failed to conduct the investigation directly as required by law, and therefore ordered Noguera’s release.363 The Court notified the Committee on Accusations of the Congress of the decision, so that it would investigate Iguarán for omission.364 The Court did not annul the evidence that had been compiled in the case, and so Iguarán is free to refile charges against Noguera.365 However, Noguera’s lawyers are taking advantage of the situation to file additional motions (such as a motion to recuse the prosecutor to whom Iguarán was delegating investigative functions), thereby delaying the case further.366

The Noguera case is complex and requires the collection and analysis of large amounts of evidence. It is therefore understandable that the attorney general would try to find a way to delegate most of the work to another prosecutor who will be able to dedicate his full attention to the case. In addition, Iguarán claims that the court ruling requiring him to handle the case directly was a departure from previous jurisprudence.367 However, in light of the court rulings holding that Iguarán must take the lead on the investigation, to continue delegating decision-making to another prosecutor would jeopardize the case. Iguarán told Human Rights Watch that he is committed to taking the lead on the case from now on, though he disagrees with the court ruling.368

Investigation for Trade Unionist Killings

Rafael García alleged that during Noguera’s tenure, DAS detectives had put together a list of trade unionists and others to be targeted by paramilitaries in the northern coast.369 García specifically noted that one of the persons who was targeted by paramilitaries using DAS information was sociology Professor Alfredo Correa de Andreis, who was killed in 2004.370 Among the computer files taken from Edgar Ignacio Fierro Florez there was a document entitled “operations reports” that includes a report about the execution of Correa de Andreis by the Northern Block’s “Metropolitan Commission” in Barranquilla.371

The Attorney General’s Office appears to be making some progress in the Correa de Andreis case. According to news reports, it is currently seeking the extradition from the United States of Javier Alfredo Valle Anaya, former deputy director of the DAS in Santa Marta, for his alleged involvement in the killing.372

It’s unclear, however, how far that investigation has progressed with respect to Noguera himself or with respect to the killings of trade unionists on the list García described.  

Closed Investigation into Electoral Fraud

In a surprising development, the Attorney General’s Office quickly closed its investigation into one of the most serious allegations that Rafael Garcia has made against Noguera: electoral fraud when Noguera was President Uribe’s presidential campaign manager.

García has provided detailed testimony in cases against congressmen concerning his involvement in electoral fraud in the 2002 congressional elections in the state of Magdalena as well as in the 2002 presidential elections, in conjunction with the paramilitaries led by Jorge 40. According to García, he designed a database with census data on the local population: “The idea was to design a computer program that would list for us or give us listings of voters based on any criteria, that is, by position, by zone, by voting booth, by municipality, or even by state,” he explained in testimony concerning fraud in the congressional elections.373 Candidates backed by the paramilitaries later used that program to carry out fraud, for example, by having the election juries help them fill out voting cards for persons in that region who did not show up to vote. According to García, the fraud was so blatant that he was concerned it would be discovered and the elections would be challenged.374

Claudia López has noted that the State of Magdalena is the one that had the most atypical voting patterns of all the states in the 2002 congressional elections.375

García says that after the congressional elections, he and another person who worked with him received “the order” from one of the participants in the electoral fraud to go to the “headquarters of the presidential campaign of doctor Álvaro Uribe Velez, as the plan was to carry out the same operation for that campaign. When we showed up, I found that Jorge Noguera Cotes was the regional director of the campaign in the state of Magdalena.” García explains that he had known Noguera for many years, as they had worked together in other contexts.376

García adds that from the start Noguera “knew by virtue of whom we had come to the campaign, and for what purpose. In fact, in the first meeting … [we] showed Jorge Noguera … the program containing the lists of voters, and explained how we carried out the electoral fraud. However [other persons] proposed that for the presidential campaign the fraud should be carried out in a smaller number of municipalities, so that the voting results would not be as scandalous as the ones in March.” Garcia says that he and one of his associates in the fraud received about 200,000 pesos each in payment, and had their travel expenses covered, so “there should be a record in the accounting of Uribe’s campaign.” García says there was some friction within the campaign, which resulted in them having a narrower victory than they expected. But García notes that “Magdalena was the only state on the Atlantic coast in which doctor Álvaro Uribe defeated the other candidate, doctor Serpa, in the presidential elections of 2002.”377

García claims it is because of his work on electoral fraud in the presidential elections that Noguera later asked him to go to Bogotá and serve as information technology director for the DAS:

During the months in which I was linked to the Uribe campaign in Magdalena Jorge Noguera noticed my close relationship with the politicians backed by the Northern Block; at one point he told me that he hadn’t realized I was a paramilitary. Because of this, the day after the 2002 presidential election in which doctor Álvaro Uribe won in the first round, Jorge Noguera called me to his apartment …. Noguera told me he was hoping for a position in the administration of doctor Uribe, with the support of the candidates who had gotten into Congress with the Northern block; he said he needed me to be the bridge between him and the Northern block … because of our old friendship, he trusted me …. The surprise for me was when he was named DAS director; when I asked him about it … he said it had been thanks to “the friends.” From that moment on, Jorge Noguera, whenever he tried to refer to the self-defense forces when talking to me, he always spoke of the friends.378

Despite these detailed statements, however, according to records that the Office of the Attorney General gave to Human Rights Watch, the investigation into “facts related to supposed fraud in the congressional and presidential elections in 2002 in the state of Magdalena” was closed on February 22, 2007.379

Attorney General Mario Iguarán told Human Rights Watch that the evidence was simply too thin to justify continuing the investigation at that time, so the prosecutors had decided to close the case, leaving open the possibility of reopening it in the future.380 However, it will be very difficult to reopen it, as the case was the subject of a “preclusion” resolution—this means that the prosecutor’s decision to close the case is res judicata, and the investigation can be reopened only with great difficulty.381

Uribe Administration Response

In response to the parapolitics scandals, the Uribe administration has often spoken about the importance of the truth, and it has provided increased funding to the Supreme Court for the investigations.382 However, at the same time it has repeatedly taken steps that risk undermining the investigations and let politicians linked to paramilitaries off the hook. It has often launched aggressive and dangerous public attacks against the Supreme Court. When the administration had an opportunity to ensure meaningful reform of Congress to remove or reduce paramilitary influence, it chose instead to block the reform effort. A recent Uribe administration proposal to amend the Constitution would remove investigations of congressmen from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, further jeopardizing the parapolitics investigations.

Proposal to let the “Parapoliticians” Out of Prison

In April 2007 President Uribe announced a proposal to release from prison all politicians who are convicted of colluding with paramilitaries.383 The proposal went through various incarnations as it became a major focus of public discussion by Uribe and his cabinet members for several weeks, and the administration even went so far as to announce that a formal bill would be presented to Congress in May or June 2007.384

However, the democratic majority in the US Congress was simultaneously coming to a position on the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and both Nancy Pelosi, majority leader in the US House of Representatives, and former presidential candidate Al Gore had expressed serious concern over the parapolitics scandals.385 The proposal to let the paramilitaries’ accomplices off the hook was such an obvious blow to accountability and the dismantlement of paramilitary influence that it would almost certainly have become a significant obstacle to ratification of the FTA. In June 2007 the Uribe administration simply tabled the proposal.386

Attacks on the Supreme Court

Since the Supreme Court started the parapolitics investigations, President Uribe has repeatedly lashed out against the Court, publicly criticizing it, calling individual justices on the phone, making allegations against them that have later been found to be baseless, and even initiating criminal prosecutions of court members before the Accusations Commission of the Congress, which is controlled by his supporters.

One early set of attacks came when the Court ruled, in July 2007, that paramilitarism was not a “political” crime that could be completely pardoned. President Uribe publicly and aggressively criticized the ruling, accusing the Court of suffering from an “ideological bias.”387 The attacks have continued since then.

The Tasmania scandal

In early October 2007—only days after the Court announced its indictment of Sen. Mario Uribe—President Uribe began making a series of public statements accusing the Supreme Court of conspiring against him. 388 Specifically, Uribe said he was concerned over allegations made against Supreme Court Justice Iván Velásquez by imprisoned mid-level paramilitary commander José Orlando Moncada Zapata, alias “Tasmania.” A letter signed by Tasmania and addressed to the president a month before, on September 11th, stated that Judge Velásquez had offered benefits to him and his family in exchange for implicating Uribe in the attempted assassination of Tasmania’s former commander, paramilitary Alcides de Jesús Durango, alias “René”.389

Both the content and timing of Uribe’s claims and the letter raised suspicions that this was primarily an attempt to intimidate and undermine the credibility of a key investigator in the parapolitics investigations.

Velásquez is highly respected for his long record of conducting serious investigations into difficult issues. According to sources within the judicial system, Velásquez deserves much of the credit for initiating the parapolitics investigations, and organizing the team of investigators within the Supreme Court that carried them forward. As a result, the media has often referred to him as “the star magistrate of parapolitics.” At the time of Uribe’s statements, he was spearheading the team of investigators looking into parapolitics.390

Velásquez had in fact interviewed Tasmania in Medellín on September 10. It was later revealed that the president was immediately informed of the interview by his brother Santiago Uribe, who says he found out about it because he is the neighbor of Tasmania’s lawyer, Sergio González.391 President Uribe had called Justice Velásquez on the phone on the very same day the letter was sent, September 11, to complain about the allegations. However, he did not make the letter public until nearly a month later. The Uribe administration claims that it waited to make the letter public until the President received confirmation from the DAS concerning the authenticity of the fingerprint and identification number of ‘Tasmania.”392

According to Velásquez, when Uribe called him on the night of the September 11, Velásquez explained openly that he had in fact met with Tasmania the previous day, but that no mention was made of the president and that in any case as a Supreme Court magistrate he has no jurisdiction to investigate the president, as only the Accusations Committee of the Congress may do so.393 Velásquez’s statements were corroborated by the public prosecutor from Medellín, Ana Elena Gutiérrez, who was responsible for investigating Tasmania and accompanied Judge Velásquez during the interview.394

On June 18, 2008, Tasmania publicly retracted his accusations of Velásquez and said that the letter had been part of a strategy to discredit the justice. He said the strategy was masterminded by his lawyer Sergio González and a major drug trafficker known as Juan Carlos Sierra, ‘El Tuso,’ who was also a client of González’s and who according to the news media is alleged to have had land deals with Sen. Mario Uribe.395

According to Semana magazine, El Tuso had offered a significant amount of money to Tasmania if he ruined the image of Velásquez; however, due to El Tuso’s extradition to the United States in May 2008, the payment was not completed and Tasmania backed out of the deal.396 Columnist Daniel Coronell, writing in Semana, says thatboth Tasmania and paramilitary commander “Ernesto Báez” have said that the president’s brother, Santiago Uribe, and cousin, Mario Uribe, were somehow involved in the attempt to delegitimize the Supreme Court’s investigations into the parapolitics scandal.397

In a recorded statement to Justice Velásquez, Tasmania said that he was very afraid that he would be killed, that he had signed the letter to President Uribe without understanding its content, and that in exchange for doing so, his lawyer had told him he would receive a house for his mother and money, and that he would be allowed to enter the Justice and Peace Law process. Tasmania also told Velásquez that Sergio Gonzalez had mentioned that Mario Uribe and Santiago Uribe were going to help him.398

After Tasmania’s retraction, the Office of the Attorney General closed its investigation of Velásquez, and ordered that Tasmania, Sergio González, and a former paramilitary, Eduin Guzman, be investigated for the setup.

In closing the case, Attorney General Mario Iguarán stated that it had been a set-up directed against the Supreme Court, “which included the deception of the President of the Republic.”399

Despite Tasmania’s statements, the Office of the Attorney General has failed to order any investigation into whether Mario and Santiago Uribe played any role in the setup. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Iguarán said that such an investigation could not be conducted because the names of Mario and Santiago Uribe appeared nowhere in the case file, so prosecutors had no basis on which to investigate them.400 Human Rights Watch has not had direct access to Tasmania’s official statements to prosecutors, which are confidential. However, if the media reports are accurate in indicating that Tasmania told investigators from the Attorney General’s Office that Mario and Santiago Uribe had been involved in the setup, it is unclear why those statements have not led to any investigation of the two.

Defamation Charges against Supreme Court President Valencia

In addition to the “Tasmania” accusations, President Uribe has repeatedly attacked Justice Cesar Julio Valencia, who served as Supreme Court president through the first few months of 2008, and is a member of the Court’s civil chamber. Uribe publicly labeled Valencia a “phony” on the radio in October 2007.401 And shortly after the Court had indicted Mario Uribe, President Uribe not only started making his public accusations against Velásquez over the Tasmania allegations, but also personally called Justice Valencia from New York. In a later interview, Valencia stated that during the call, Uribe expressed “his displeasure over some decisions the criminal chamber had been taking and, in unclear terms … referred to some acts by an assistant justice.”402 When asked specifically whether Uribe had “referred concretely to his cousin’s case,” Valencia said “yes.” Uribe has recognized that he did call Valencia on the day of the indictment, but claims that he never inquired about Mario Uribe’s case. After Valencia’s interview, Uribe filed criminal charges against Valencia for defamation and slander.403

Uribe’s charges against Justice Valencia are now being investigated by the Accusations Committee of the Colombian House of Representatives, which is composed overwhelmingly by members of Uribe’s coalition in Congress.404

In mid-2008, two officials from the Uribe administration announced that they were filing additional criminal charges against members of the Supreme Court’s criminal chamber. They decided to file the charges shortly after the Court issued a ruling in which it convicted a congresswoman, Yidis Medina, based on her guilty plea of having accepted bribes from Uribe administration officials to vote in favor of the constitutional amendment that allowed Uribe’s reelection in 2006.405 According to Medina, two of Uribe’s cabinet members, Diego Palacios and Sabas Pretelt, had approached her and Congressman Teodolindo Avedaño in the days prior to a crucial vote on the reelection by a committee on which they both served.406 Medina stated that Palacios and Pretelt had promised her money and the appointment to public offices of a series of individuals close to her in exchange for her vote in favor of the reelection bill.407 After the ruling, in a press conference with President Uribe, Palacio adamantly denied all charges brought against him by the Inspector General’s Office. He claimed that the court had made false and injurious accusations, which he would take before the Accusations Commission of the House of Representatives. 408 At the same time, High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo announced he was filing charges before the same Commission against the justices for alleged links to drug traffickers.409

Paramilitaries in the Presidential Palace

Semana magazine has revealed that on April 23, 2008, the lawyer for Don Berna, Diego Álvarez, entered the Presidential Palace along with Antonio López (also known as “Job”). Job was a demobilized paramilitary and close associate of Don Berna and, according to Semana, most law enforcement agencies considered him to be an active member of the Envigado Office, a powerful criminal mafia in Medellín.410 Human Rights Watch had for months received information indicating Job had links to criminal activities, including alleged killings, in the Comuna 8 neighborhood of Medellin.

At the Palace, the Presidency acknowledges, Job and Álvarez met with the President’s Legal Secretary, Edmundo del Castillo, and with César Mauricio Velásquez, press secretary for the Presidency. Press secretary Velásquez has acknowledged that before the April 23 meeting, he had previously met twice with Álvarez. During the April 23 meeting, Job gave the officials audio and video recordings that appeared designed to smear the court and Justice Iván Velásquez.411

In one of the recordings Job reportedly gave to administration officials on April 23, attorney Henry Anaya appears talking to Álvarez, saying he’s a representative of the Supreme Court. Anaya offers to help Don Berna in exchange for information and statements. He also asks for money. In fact, Anaya has no formal relationship to the Court, though he has met with members of the Court in the past. According to Semana, “when the paramilitary chief, his lawyer and others ... designed the strategy of the clandestine recordings, they knew that one of the most efficient and fast ways to smear the Court was using Anaya. Berna’s men knew of the good relations and friendship that Anaya had with some magistrates and that’s why they contacted him, as one of the planners of the plot told Semana.”

Anaya knew Justice Iván Velasquez, as he had previously introduced potential witnesses to Velásquez. At the request of Anaya and Berna’s lawyer, Velásquez attended some meetings with them, to discuss possible collaboration by DonBerna in parapolitics cases. In the meetings, Berna’s lawyer told Velásquez his client was willing to help in certain investigations in exchange for some benefits. Velásquez’s response in the recording is simply to explain what the legally available benefits are.

Immediately after the meeting, Semana reports that Job made calls to one of his associates and to Don Berna (who was in the Picota prison), reporting that everything had gone “very well” in the “Casa de Nari” (the Casa de Nariño is the official name of the Palace).

After the Semana article appeared, President Uribe stated that he did not forbid the meeting with Berna’s lawyer and Job because the Presidential Palace is ready to receive any information any citizen may have about matters of public concern. Also, he said, the Presidency did not report the information turned over by Job and Don Berna’s lawyer to the Attorney General’s Office or any of the other appropriate authorities because the recordings were still being transcribed by the DAS. In addition, Uribe said, they had concluded that the information was “irrelevant.” However, Semana reports that a source in the Presidential Palace did apparently leak supposed transcripts of some of the recordings to a media source. 412

Semana also reports that it had access to the recordings as well as to the transcripts that officials in the Presidential Palace leaked to a media source, and states that “despite the fact that the recordings have inaudible sections, the transcripts made by the Palace of Nariño have sections that are not in the audio recordings. The transcripts that the Palace leaked to the press have lengthy sections against the Court that do not appear in the recordings.”413

The timing of the meeting is also unusual. In mid-April 2008, Don Berna had for the first time given a statement to the Court, in which he stated that he “has knowledge of some links of some politicians of the country,” but he requested an opportunity to meet with some other members of his organization before providing details. The Court acceded to his request, and a meeting was set for Berna to talk with his associates for April 24—the day after Job and Berna’s lawyer were at the Presidential Palace. When Berna was once again called to testify before the Court in late April, he refused to elaborate on his earlier statements.414 The timing raises the question of why, after the meeting in the Presidential Palace, Berna suddenly decided not to talk about the politicians after all. Within a matter of days, Berna was extradited to the United States.

In addition, in their public statements about the meeting, Uribe administration officials failed, for two weeks, to mention a fact that Semana later revealed: that two other persons had also attended the meeting with Job in the Presidential Palace. Those persons were Juan José Chaux, then Colombian ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and Oscar Iván Palacio, a lobbyist and lawyer who had worked with President Uribe when he was Governor of Antioquia. In a press release, the Uribe government later recognized that Chaux and Palacio had both attended the meeting as well.415

It is now up to the Office of the Attorney General and the Accusations Commission of the Congress to conduct a thorough investigation of these events. Job, however, is no longer available to testify. On July 28, 2008, two men shot Job to death while he was eating at a restaurant in the prosperous Las Palmas district, on the road from the Rionegro airport into Medellín. Job had many enemies, according to Semana—including “Don Mario,” from a rival armed group—and even possibly Don Berna himself. A letter found on Job’s body reportedly suggests that Job might have been lying to Berna about expenses related to bribes and payments to lawyers, so as to pad his own wallet.416

Effect on the Justices

The Supreme Court has publicly stood firm in the face of the repeated accusations and attacks by Uribe administration officials. In August, it issued a statement in which it noted its concern over how

in a recurrent, systematic and even orchestrated manner, ill-intentioned and deceptive comments are spread, with the exclusive goal of discrediting the investigations of judicial servants or to undermine their credibility. And the most serious part of all this is that these machinations are repeated or spread by persons who because of their position are called upon, like no other, to cooperate with judges, to back their decisions and to ensure that these are carried out, lest all the democratic institutions of the country become wrecked.417

In a recent seminar, the current president of the Supreme Court, Francisco Ricaurte, added—alluding to the 1986 guerrilla taking of the Palace of Justice that resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the Court at the time—that "just as the Court did not, over two decades ago, allow itself to be stopped by the violent ones who sought to quiet it and consume it in flames, nor will it do so now in the face of those who seek to silence it so that impunity may prevail.”418

But the constant attacks and campaigns understandably take a toll on the justices handling these investigations—many of whom have spent their entire careers in Colombia’s justice system and cannot easily leave their jobs. In a recent interview with El Tiempo, Justice Iván Velásquez spoke of the possibility of resigning, stating “it’s been plenty. It’s not fair, there is no right that in response to a service that I believe I’m offering adequately, that requires permanent dedication and that affects one’s family, personal life and tranquility, there is a constant persecution, permanent efforts to attack.”419

Sources familiar with the Supreme Court and its members told Human Rights Watch that the government’s repeated verbal attacks on the justices have had a serious impact on the wellbeing of several of them, who now live in constant fear that they will become the next targets of false accusations. Some of them also have concerns over their personal security.420 Justice Iván Velásquez has filed a request for precautionary measures, for his security, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.421

Failure to Adequately Reform Congress

In mid-2008, the Uribe administration blocked a promising bill that had been designed to reform Congress and remove or reduce paramilitaries’ influence.

With 20 percent of Congress under investigation for ties with the paramilitaries and 33 congressmen already in jail, urgent action was required to reestablish the credibility of the legislature, which in early June 2008 held a confidence rating of 14.7 percent.422

In 2007 Colombian Senator Gina Parody proposed the “empty seat” bill, which was designed to sanction political parties whose members were arrested for collaborating with illegal armed groups. The main point of the bill was to bar parties from simply replacing members of congress who were in detention for ties with illegal armed groups with other politicians from the same party. In other words, if a congressman were arrested for paramilitary ties, his seat would remain empty—his party would not be able to name a substitute, as it normally does.423

The bill was drafted in response to a key finding of the various studies of parapolitics: that paramilitary influence is often tied not only to a specific politician who strikes a deal with the paramilitaries, but also to the party itself.424 According to standard procedure, when a congressman leaves his seat, he is simply replaced by the next name on his party’s list.425 Consequently, simply replacing imprisoned congressmen under charges of ties with the paramilitaries with other members of parties who may have benefited from the same ties meant that the paramilitary influence in the Congress could remain more or less intact.426

As explained by Claudia López, the empty seat reform is necessary because:

The parties are vehicles used by the paramilitaries to promote their candidates, because for the parties, unlike persons, there is no cost to being allied with criminals. Members of congress can end up in prison, but parties can continue receiving financing and publicity, and maintaining the same electoral representation, whether they obtain it through legal means or with the help of criminals …. Without measures like the empty seat and others, the parties will continue to have ‘incentives’ to run the ethical risk of being allied with criminals. The reform would have distributed the costs of an illegal act between the party, which would be assigned a form of political responsibility, and the elected candidate, who could be held criminally responsible. Moreover, Colombian legislation offers parties numerous advantages … for example, seats don’t belong to the elected congressperson but to the party. If it’s proven that that representation was not obtained legitimately, it should not belong to the congressperson or to the party.427

However, the initiative ultimately failed after the Uribe administration strongly opposed the reform. 428 Of the 20 percent of Congress that is under investigation, nearly all are members of Uribe’s coalition.429 The then Minister of the Interior and Justice, Carlos Holguín, openly stated that he opposed the “empty seat” reform proposal because the Uribe administration was unwilling to lose its majorities in Congress. In Holguín’s words “the initiative puts the composition of Congress in the hands of a judge.”430

Recently, the Uribe administration has proposed a political reform bill that includes measures similar to the empty seat proposal, but would only start applying it to new vacancies as of the date of the bill’s approval—that is, at the earliest, starting in 2009.431 As a result, it would not address the current problem of parties simply replacing politicians who have been arrested for paramilitary links with other members of the same party.

According to Minister of Interior and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio, the empty seat measure can’t be applied to past situations, as the replacements for the congressmen who resigned have already acquired a right to that seat. 432 But this explanation does not address the argument, compellingly made by Claudia López, that if a party obtained a seat illegitimately, through cooperation with paramilitaries or other illegal means, it has no entitlement to keep that seat—on the contrary, such behavior should be sanctioned.

Judicial Reform Proposal

In July 2008 the Uribe administration announced a proposal for a series of constitutional amendments that could be a fatal blow to the parapolitics investigations.

Among the amendments that Uribe initially proposed was a provision that would remove all investigations of members of Congress from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Instead, trials would be conducted before a local court in Bogotá, and the Supreme Court would only hear appeals. Later, the proposal was modified so that the trial would be conducted by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court; but the power of investigation would be shifted to the Office of the Attorney General, and congresspersons would be able to appeal the Supreme Court’s rulings to another of Colombia’s high courts, the Superior Council of the Judicature.433

The government has justified its proposed amendments by invoking two basic due process rights: defendants’ right to be tried by an impartial tribunal, separate from the entity that investigates them; and their right to an appeal.434 Currently, the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court both conducts the investigations and tries the congressmen. There is no appeal from its rulings.

These are important problems that need to be addressed. However, there are other solutions that would not jeopardize the parapolitics investigations and would not require removing jurisdiction over the initial investigations from the Supreme Court.

Minister Valencia Cossio told Human Rights Watch that the government’s proposal was drafted to “fulfill a ruling by the Constitutional Court that required separating the trial from the investigation.”435 However, the government’s proposal is not consistent with the Court’s ruling, which had urged the Colombian Congress to issue legislation—without amending the Constitution—to “separate, within the Supreme Court itself, the functions of investigation and trial” of congressmen.436 The same could be done with respect to appeals, as the Colombian Constitution provides that the Supreme Court may be divided into however many chambers the law determines, and various functions may be assigned to specific chambers or judges. Thus, instead of amending the constitution and removing the investigations from the Supreme Court, the Congress could easily pass a law assigning the function of investigation, trial, and appeals to various chambers or panels of the court. For example, the law could assign the investigations to a panel of investigative judges in the criminal chamber, trial to another panel, and appeal to an ad-hoc appeals chamber made up of judges who ordinarily serve in the civil or labor chamber of the Court.

When Human Rights Watch asked Minister Valencia Cossio about the possibility of solving the problem in the manner suggested above he recognized that creating different chambers and dividing functions within the Supreme Court itself was a viable option. In his words, in the government’s proposal “there are no immovables or dogmas.” However, when pressed on why the government did not simply change its proposal in this manner, he said that the government had already made its proposal, and it was up to the courts to make a counterproposal: “they have opposed, but they haven’t proposed,” he said.437

Given the risk that the proposal could undermine current and future parapolitics investigations, the government itself should amend the proposal.

Should the amendments be approved, they might affect not only future cases, but also investigations that have already been started by the Supreme Court. Valencia Cossio told Human Rights Watch that the government’s proposal would specifically provide that the amendments are not to be applied retroactively—so they would not apply to members of congress already under investigation by the Supreme Court.438 But other constitutional experts consulted by Human Rights Watch warned that many of the defendants would invoke the constitutional principle of “favorability” to file appeals demanding that they be granted the favorable treatment provided by the new amendments.439

The proposal has undergone some changes since Uribe initially described it, but as of this writing the most troubling aspects of the proposal remained in place and it was starting to undergo debate in the Colombian Congress.

295 The Chamber of Deputies is charged with accusing “the president of the Republic, … magistrates of the [high courts], and the attorney general;” and the Senate is then charged with deciding such cases, “even if [the officials in question] are no longer in office.” Constitution of Colombia, arts. 174, 178.

296 “Osorio Devastó la Fiscalía,” El Espectador, January 8, 2008 (accessed March 21, 2008 ).

297 Margarita Martínez, “Colombia Paramilitary Boss Speaks Out,” Associated Press, February 13, 2002.

298 “Congreso, en la Mira Para,” El Tiempo, March 17, 2002, (accessed August 15, 2008).

299 “Habla Vicente Castaño,” Semana, June 5, 2005, (accessed April 30, 2008).

300 Clara López Obregón, “Gracias a denuncia formulada por López Obregón, corte llama a declarar a Castaño y a Mancuso,” undated, (accessed March 18, 2008).

301 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bogotá, December 2007.

302Claudia López, “Heroes who have not reinserted themselves,” Semana, September 9, 2005, issue 1239.

303 Ibid.

304 “When will He Resign?” Semana, April 8, 2006, (accessed August 14, 2008).

305 “40 congresistas firmaron compromiso político con Autodefensas, reconoce Miguel de la Espriella,” El Tiempo, November 27, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008); “Así se ‘Tejio’ El Pacto Secreto de 2001en Santa Fe de Ralito,” El Tiempo, January 21, 2007, (accessed August 15, 2008).

306 Colombia’s Constitution provides that the Supreme Court is charged with investigating and trying members of Congress. However, if the defendants are no longer in office, the Supreme Court may only continue investigating them for criminal acts that “bear a relation to the functions performed.” Constitution of Colombia, art 235. In most cases in which congressmen have resigned, the Court has considered that the crimes under investigation did not bear a relation to their official functions as congressmen.

307 “Renunció la canciller María Consuelo Araújo, por escándalo de 'parapolítica',” El Tiempo, February 19, 2007, (September 25, 2008).

308 Office of the Deputy Attorney General of Colombia, File S.I. 032: Álvaro Araújo Castro, January 18, 2008.

309 Ibid.

310 Ibid.

311 “Venezuela dice que la extradición de Araújo a Colombia podría tardar ‘semanas,’” EFE, September 8, 2008; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán, October 2, 2008.

312 Sibylla Brodzinsky, “Los escándalos afectan a Uribe en Washington,” El Nuevo Herald, April 25, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

313 Fiscalia General de la Nacion, Unidad de Fiscalia ante la Corte Suprema, Radicado 11.499-8: Mario Uribe Escobar, Situacion Juridica, April 21, 2008.

314 Nelson Parra, “Senador Mario Uribe fue capturado luego de que Costa Rica le negó asilo,” El Tiempo, April 22, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

315 Fiscalía General de la Nacion, Unidad de Fiscalia ante la Corte Suprema, Radicado 11.499-8: Mario Uribe Escobar, Situacion Juridica, April 21, 2008

316 Ibid.

317 Antonio Rafael Sanchez, a journalist who Mancuso claims was present at the second meeting with Mario Uribe, testified that he was not present at that meeting. Instead, he says that he was leaving Mancuso’s ranch in 2002, after the elections, when he say Uribe and Pineda arrive together. However, the prosecutor points out that Sanchez disappeared the day in which he was supposed to give his statement, and was only interviewed after investigators located him that night. The prosecutor also says that Sanchez seems to be trying to satisfy everyone—agreeing with Mancuso in that a meeting happened, but agreeing with Mario Uribe and Pineda on the dates. Ibid.

318 Ibid.

319 “Condenada Rocio Arias,” Semana, July 16, 2007, (accessed September 25, 2008). ”Asesinan a Polo Bautista Pineda, hermano de la ex congresista Eleonora Pineda,” El Tiempo, October 5, 2007, (accessed September 25, 2008).

320 “EU mete mano a las listas,” El Tiempo, February 3, 2006, (accessed September 25, 2008). However, a US State Department spokesman denied having reviewed parties’ lists. “E.U. Niega Presión A Partidos,” El Tiempo, February 4, 2006, (accessed September 25, 2008).

321 “Asesinato de hermano de Eleonora Pineda estaría relacionado con sus declaraciones, afirma abogado,” El Tiempo, October 6, 2007, (accessed September 25, 2008).

322 Fiscalia General de la Nacion, Unidad de Fiscalia ante la Corte Suprema, Radicado 11.499-8: Mario Uribe Escobar, Situacion Juridica, April 21, 2008

323 Ibid.

324 Ibid.

325 Ibid.

326 Despacho del Vicefiscal General de la Nacion, Expediente S.I. 042: Mario Uribe Escobar, August 19, 2008.

327 Ibid.

328 “Por qué renuncié,” Semana, August 30, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

329 Letter from Sandra Castro, Director of the Human Rights Unit, Attorney General’s Office, to Francisco Etcheverry, Director of International Affairs, responding to questions submitted by Human Rights Watch, April 3, 2008.

330 “Pedirán en extradición a ex subdirector del DAS en Santa Marta por crimen de Correa de Andreis,” El Tiempo, April 23, 2008, (accessed April 28, 2008).

331 Ibid.

332 “Los 40 principales,” Semana, September 8, 2007, (accessed April 28, 2008).

333 “Por la para-política, el senador Dieb Maloof también renunció al fuero parlamentario,” RCN News, October 9, 2007, (accessed March 21, 2008).

334 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Bogota, February 2008.

335 Ibid.

336 “Salomon Saade encabezó lista al Congreso por orden de ‘Jorge 40,’ dijo ex jefe de informatica del DAS,” El Tiempo, January 31, 2007. “The New Revelations of Rafael Garcia, former information technology chief of the DAS, about parapolitics,” Cambio, Issue 700, November. 27, 2006, (accessed March 21, 2008).

337 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Bogota, February 2008.

338 “Cuatro años y nueve meses de cárcel pagará el ex senador Dieb Maloof por parapolítica,” El Tiempo, January 15, 2008.

339 “Senador Jorge Castro renuncia al Congreso,” RCN News, February 14, 2008, (accessed March 21, 2008).

340 “A indagatoria Jorge Castro por parapolítica,” El Espectador, February 8, 2008, (accessed March 21, 2008).

341 “A indagatoria tres congresistas por parapolítica,” El Espectador, March 11, 2008, (accessed August 15, 2008).

342 Ibid.

343 Letter to Attorney General Mario Iguarán from Gina María Parody, Senator of the Republic of Colombia, August 12, 2008, (accessed August 28, 2008).

344 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Attorney General Mario Iguarán, October 2, 2008.

345 Letter to Attorney General Mario Iguarán from the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, January 23, 2008. “Habla la Fiscal Destituida,” El Espectador, March 19, 2008.

346 Ibid.

347 Human Rights Watch interviews (names withheld), Bogota, July 2008.

348 “El DAS en el Fogoón,” El Tiempo, October 17, 2005, (accessed August 15, 2008). “Condenaron al ex jefe de informática del DAS, Rafael García, de 18 años de prisón,” El Tiempo, Ocobter 24, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008). “Las Pruebas Clave que Llevaron a Juicio al ‘Ventilador’ del DAS,” El Tiempo, April 20, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008).

349 “La Fiscalia acusa a Jorge Noguera de haber puesto el DAS al servicio de los paras,” Semana, February 1, 2008, (accessed August 15, 2008).

350 “US revokes the visa of former DAS director,” EFE News Service, April 28, 2008.

351 Frank Bajak, “Colombian president attacks the press,” Associated Press, April 17, 2008. “ ‘Uribe Intimida a la Prensa’: Ong,” El Tiempo, April 17, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008). Human Rights Watch, “Uribe Must End Attacks on Media,” April 17, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008).

352 “‘Si Él Se Equivocó, Debe ir a La Cárcel’, Dice Uribe,” El Tiempo, April 11, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008). “Noeguera Renunció Tras Cita a Indagatoria,” El Tiempo, May 9, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008).

353 “La Captura de Noguera,” El Tiempo, February 24, 2007, (accessed August 5, 2008).

354 Letter from Mauricio González, Legal Secretary of the Presidency, in response to a citizen’s requests for information, April 18, 2007. Letter from Mauricio González, Legal Secretary of the Presidency, in response to a citizen’s requests for information, May 11, 2007.

355 Ibid.

356 “Noguera se Incrustó en las AUC: Fiscalía,” El Tiempo, March 11, 2007, (accessed August 5, 2008).

357 “Datos Borrados De Un Ex Jefe Paramilitar Enredan A Noguera,” El Tiempo, November 24, 2006, (accessed August 5, 2008).

358 Colombian Inspector General’s office, sentence against Jorge Aurelio Noguera Cotes and Giancarlo Auqué, November 14, 2007. The sentence bars Noguera from holding public office for 18 years.

359 “Llaman a juicio al ex director del DAS Jorge Noguera por presuntos vínculos con paramilitares,” El Tiempo, February 1, 2008, (accessed March 18, 2008).

360 “Noguera salió pero volverian a capturarlo,” El Tiempo, March 24, 2007.

361 “Carrerón En La Fiscalía Para Devolver A Noguera A La Cárcel,” El Tiempo, March 24, 2007, (accessed August 5, 2008).

362 Human Rights Watch phone interview with Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán, August 15, 2008.

363 “Corte Suprema ordena la libertad inmediata para Jorge Noguera Cotes, ex director del DAS,” El Tiempo, June 11, 2008, (accessed August 5, 2008).

364 Ibid.

365 “Noguera Pide A La Corte Anular Pruebas En Su Caso Breves,” El Tiempo, June 21, 2008, (accessed August 5, 2008).

366 “Mientras Corte Resuelve Recusaciones, No Despega El Caso Contra Noguera,” El Tiempo, June 24, 2008, (accessed August 5, 2008).

367 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán, October 2, 2008.

368 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán, August 15, 2008.

369 Semana interview with Rafael Garcia, available for download at “¿Cuándo renunciará?” Semana, April 8, 2006, (accessed March 20, 2008).

370 Ibid.

371 Office of the Attorney General of Colombia, internal analysis concerning Northern Block of AUC, August 2006, obtained by Human Rights Watch.

372 “Extraditarán A Ex Das Por Crimen De Correa De Andreis,” El Tiempo, April 24, 2008, (accessed August 5, 2008).

373 Colombian Supreme Court, “Acta de la Diliigencia de Declaración Rendida por el Señor Rafael Enrique García Torres,“ Bogotá, November 21, 2006.

374 Ibid.

375 Email message from Claudia López to Human Rights Watch, August 26, 2008.

376 Colombian Supreme Court, “Acta de la Diliigencia de Declaración Rendida por el Señor Rafael Enrique García Torres,“ Bogotá, November 21, 2006. English translation by Human Rights Watch.

377 Ibid.

378 Ibid.

379 Letter from Francisco Javier Echeverri Lara Director of International Affairs, Office of the Attorney General of Colombia, sent to Human Rights Watch, May 6, 2008, attaching letter from Carlos Fernando Espinosa Blanco, Administrative Secretary, Unit of Prosecutors Delegated before the Supreme Court, to Francisco Javier Echeverri Lara, April 25, 2008.

380 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Attorney General Mario Iguarán, August 15, 2008 and October 2, 2008.

381 Letter from Francisco Javier Echeverri Lara Director of International Affairs, Office of the Attorney General of Colombia, sent to Human Rights Watch, May 6, 2008, attaching letter from Carlos Fernando Espinosa Blanco, Administrative Secretary, Unit of Prosecutors Delegated before the Supreme Court, to Francisco Javier Echeverri Lara, April 25, 2008. Human Rights Watch interview with Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguarán, October 2, 2008.

382 “’Ir por la verdad total’ reta Uribe,” El Tiempo, November 18, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008); “Corte Suprema tendrá su propio aparato de investigación para adelantar procesos de 'parapolítica',” El Tiempo, December 20, 2006, (accessed August 15, 2008). Human Rights Watch interviews, Bogota, December 2007 and February 2008.

383 Interview with President Álvaro Uribe Velez, RCN Radio and La FM, May 25, 2007, (accessed March 21, 2008). Letter from Human Rights Watch to President Álvaro Uribe, June 6, 2007,

384 “Gobierno reconsideró decisión de proponer excarcelación total para ‘vinculados con paramilitares’,” El Tiempo, May 28, 2007, ( accessed August 30, 2008).

385 “Colombia President Defends His Government: Rights Cases Threaten to Detail Trade Pact,” Washington Post, May 5, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008). “Colombia President Denies Ties to Paramilitary Groups,” Washington Post, April 2, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008).

386 “El Gobierno frena proyecto de ley ante el congreso para excarcelar a ‘parapolíticos’,“El Tiempo, June 4, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008).

387 “Uribe acusa a los magistrados de la Corte Suprema de ‘tener un sesgo ideológico’,” Semana, July 27, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008).

388 “La Corte Suprema le dice al Presidente Uribe que ‘no hay complot’ y exige ‘respeto’ a su trabajo,” Semana, September 9, 2007, (accessed July 23, 2008).

389 “El Presidente Álvaro Uribe exige investigar el origen de un testimonio de un paramilitar que lo vincula con un asesinato,” Semana, October 8, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008). Although the president did not make reference to the fact in his press release, Tasmania’s original letter also claims that Velasquez had attempted to implicate the president’s first cousin, Mario Uribe, in support of paramilitary groups in the southwest of Antioquia. “Carta de Tasmania dirigida al presidente Uribe,” Semana , October 9, 2007, (accessed August 4, 2008). Tasmania had in fact been arrested in the southwest Antioquia, one of Mario Uribe’s electoral strongholds. “La Corte Suprema le dice al Presidente Uribe que ‘no hay complot’ y exige ‘respeto’ a su trabajo,” Semana , October 9, 2007, (accessed Agust 4, 2008). While Tasmania acknowledged having carried out an attempt on the life of ‘René’ in 2003, he claimed that it had nothing to do with President Uribe. “Abogado de ‘Tasmania’ da detalles de reunión con magistrado que pidió implicar a Uribe en atentado,” El Tiempo, October 12, 2008, (accessed August 4, 2008). In 2005, while refusing to participate in the demobilization process scheduled for his group, ‘René’ had claimed to the High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, that Uribe had wanted to kill him. René disobeyed presidential orders requiring all AUC leaders to report to the prison of La Ceja and was eventually arrested in June of 2007. “Quienes son ‘René’ y ‘Tasmania’?” Semana, October 9, 2008, (accessed August 4, 2008) .

390 “¿Qué Hay Tras la Denuncia de Palacio Contra Investigador de la Corte?” El Tiempo, October 9, 2007, (accessed 23 July 2008).

391 “Hermano del Presidente Llevó la Razón de ‘Tasmania’ a Palacio,” El Tiempo, October 14, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

392 “Uribe Contra el Mundo,” Semana, October 13, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

393 “La Corte Suprema le dice al Presidente Uribe que ‘no hay complot’ y exige ‘respeto’ a su trabajo,” Semana, October 9, 2007, (accessed July 23, 2008).

394 “La Corte Suprema le dice al Presidente Uribe que ‘no hay complot’ y exige ‘respeto’ a su trabajo,” Semana, October 9, 2007, (accessed July 23, 2008).

395 “Magistrado Tiene Grabación en la que Ex Paramilitar ‘Tasmania’ Se Retracta,” El Tiempo, June 19, 2008, (accessed July 24 2008). “Hermano del Presidente Llevó la Razón de ‘Tasmania’ a Palacio,” El Tiempo, October 14, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008). “El Montaje,” Semana, June 21, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008). In a media interview, Justice Velásquez has since reported that González has an office in the same building where Mario Uribe has his office in Medellín; also, that El Tuso Sierra is related to Mario Uribe’s wife, and that Sierra’s aunt is Mario Uribe’s sister-in-law. Cecilia Orozco, “La Fiscalía se quedó a mitad de camino,” interview with Iván Velásquez, El Espectador, August 9, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

396 “El Montaje,” Semana, June 21, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

397 Daniel Coronell, “El ‘Boomerang’ de Tasmania,” Semana, June 28, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

398 “Cronología de una Retractación,” El Espectador, July 12, 2008, (viewed on July 22, 2008); Cecilia Orozco, “La Fiscalía se quedó a mitad de camino,” interview with Iván Velásquez, El Espectador, August 9, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

399 “Fiscalía Cierra Caso Contra Magistrado Iván Velásquez Por Señalamientos De ‘Tasmania’,” El Tiempo, August 1, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

400 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Attorney General of Colombia Mario Iguarán, August 15, 2008.

401 “Presidente de la Corte Suprema alista su defense contra Uribe,” El Espectador, January 28, 2008, (accessed August 4, 2008)

402 “El Presidente Confundió Mi Cortesía con Mis Deberes,’” El Espectador, January 14, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

403 ”Alvaro Uribe denunciará por injuria al presidente de la Corte Suprema, Cesar Julio Valencia,” El Tiempo, January 18, 2008, (accessed July 24, 2008).

404 “Sin Torcer el Brazo,” Semana, April 29, 2008, (accessed July 24, 2008).

405 Colombian Supreme Court, Criminal Chamber, Sentence in Case No. 22453 against Yidis Medina Padilla, Bogotá, June 26, 2008.

406 Ibid. “Procuraduría Investiga a Posibles Cómplices de Cohecho,” Semana, May 15, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008). “Tres Años y Medio de Condena a Yidis Medina,” Semana, June 25, 2008, (accessed July 22, 2008).

407 “Procuraduría Abre Pliego de Cargos Contra Ministros Implicados en Yidispolitica,” Semana, June 27, 2008, (accessed July 24, 2008).

408 “Uribe Increpa a Magistrados de la Corte por Supuesta Negligencia,” El Espectador, June 27, 2008, (accessed July 22, 2008).

409 “Presentan dos denuncians contra magistrados de la Sala Penal de la Corte Supreme de Justicia,” El Tiempo, June 27, 2008, (accessed August 4, 2008).

410 “El Complot de los Paras,” Semana, August 23, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008).

411 Ibid.

412 “El Coletazo,” Semana, August 30, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008).

413 Ibid.

414 Human Rights Watch interviews with officials who requested that their names be withheld, September 2008.

415 Presidency of the Republic of Colombia, Press Statement No. 164, September 14, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008). Semana reports that it obtained recordings of multiple phone conversations between Job and Chaux that, according to the magazine, show that after the meeting Job became “a sort of advisor of the diplomat in the investigation that the Attorney General’s office is conducting against him for supposed links to former paramilitary commander Ever Velosa, alias HH.” See “Job y el Embajador,” Semana, September 13, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008). In one of the recordings, Chaux reportedly mentions that he did meet once with HH—a fact that Chaux had previously denied. Chaux has since resigned from his post as ambassador.

416 “La Ultima Carta de Job,” Semana, August 2, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008).

417 Supreme Court of Colombia, full chamber, Press Statement, August 14, 2008, (accessed August 15, 2008). Translated to English by Human Rights Watch.

418 “La estrategia de Palacio,” Semana, September 6, 2008, (accessed September 24, 2008).

419 Martha Elvira Soto and Jhon Jairo Torres, ”En renunciar está pensando Iván Velásquez, magistrado 'estrella' de la parapolítica,” El Tiempo, August 10, 2008, (accessed August 10, 2008).

420 Human Rights Watch interviews with sources who requested that their names be withheld, Bogotá, September 2008.

421 Cecilia Orozco, “La Fiscalía se quedó a mitad de camino,” interview with Iván Velásquez, El Espectador, August 9, 2008, (accessed September 25, 2008).

422 “Como se juega el ajedrez de la Reforma Política,” Semana, June 2, 2008, (accessed June 13, 2008).

423 Draft bills and explanations, (accessed August 28, 2008).

424 “La ruta de la expansión paramilitar y la transformación política de Antioquia, 1997 a 2007,” Claudia López, in Parapolítica La Ruta de la Expansión Paramilitar y Los Acuerdos Políticos, Ed. Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, Intermedio, Bogotá, 2007, pp. 226-232.

425The Constitution provides that absolute or temporary absences of members of Congress shall be covered by the next candidate on their political party’s list. Constitution of Colombia of 1991, Article 134.

426 “Y después de la silla vacía, ¿qué?” El Tiempo, June 1, 2008.

427 Email message from Claudia López to Human Rights Watch, August 26, 2008.

428 “Más días de agonía para la reforma política,” El Espectador, June5, 2008, (accessed July 23, 2008).

429 “De la sinceridad al cinismo,” El Tiempo, June 3, 2008.

430 “Pelea por Inhabilidades,” El Espectador, May 28, 2008, (accessed August 4, 2008).

431 Ministry of Interior and Justice, Chamber of Deputies Hill No. 106, August 26, 2008, arts. 10, 21. “Buscan solución a los impedimentos para sacar adelante la reformas política y a la Justicia,” El Tiempo, August 13, 2008, (accessed August 13, 2008).

432 Human Rights Watch interview with Colombian Minister of Interior and Justice, Fabio Valencia Cossio, Bogotá, September 8, 2008.

433Senate Bill 07/2008, presented by the Minister of Interior and Justice, August 26, 2008, Art. 7.

Ministry of Interior and Justice of the Republic of Colombia, ”Exposición de Motivos al Proyecto de Acto Legislativo ‘por el cual se reforman unos artículos de la Constitución Política de Colombia y se dictan otras disposiciones,” August 26, 2008, pp. 29-30.

435 Human Rights Watch interview with Colombian Minister of Interior and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio, Bogota, September 8, 2008.

436 Constitutional Court of Colombia, Press Release No. 25: Ruling C-545/08, May 28, 2008.

437 Human Rights Watch interview with Colombian Minister of Interior and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio, Bogota, September 8, 2008.

438 Ibid.

439 Human Rights Watch interviews with constitutional experts (names withheld), September 2008.