IACHR Takes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case Concerning Colombia's Responsibility for Violations of Judicial Safeguards and Protection Allegedly Committed Against Saulo Arboleda Gómez

October 7, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on September 30, 2021 an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 13,045—Saulo Arboleda Gómez, with regard to the State of Colombia. This case concerns alleged violations of the rights to judicial safeguards and judicial protection by the State in the context of criminal proceedings against Saulo Arboleda Gómez, who was Colombia's Communications Minister at the time (1997).

In 1997, several media outlets published transcripts of a conversation that had been illegally recorded between Saulo Arboleda and the man who was Colombia's Minister of Mining and Energy at the time, concerning the process to award the contract to operate a radio station. Later, the country's Attorney General launched a preliminary investigation against both men, who were charged in 1998 with a crime identified as "having an illegal interest in signing contracts." The case was handled by the Supreme Court of Justice's Chamber of Criminal Appeals and led in October 2000 to a conviction against Arboleda and a sentence to 54 months in prison and a fine of 15 monthly minimum wages of the time.

Arboleda then filed a writ for protection of his fundamental rights concerning his conviction and the actions of the public prosecutor's office. He alleged that these criminal proceedings had violated his right to due process, since the core evidence in this investigation—the recording that was mentioned above—and all further evidence stemming from it were illegal, according to Colombia's Political Constitution. In 2000, however, the Disciplinary Chamber of Cundinamarca's Council of the Judiciary rejected the request for this writ for protection of Arboleda's fundamental rights and later confirmed the conviction, although Colombia's Ombudsman had also filed an appeal to request a review. Over the period 2007–2017, Arboleda filed at least five further requests for review of his conviction, which were all rejected.

In its Merits Report, the Commission stressed that, while States have an obligation to prevent and punish corruption and to act on any allegations of corruption, they must also fully respect human rights and ensure due process.

The Commission concluded that Arboleda had not had access to a legal remedy that enabled him to exercise his right to appeal his conviction before a higher judge or court, and that the remedies that had been available to him had been neither adequate nor effective to address the alleged rights violations. The Commission found that the State of Colombia is responsible for violations of the rights held in Articles 8.2h and 25.1 of the American Convention, in accordance with Articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument.

The Commission therefore asks the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to demand from the State adopt the following reparation measures:

  1. Provide comprehensive redress for the violations that were detailed in the Merits Report, including adequate compensation for Saulo Arboleda Gómez
  2. Take any measures necessary so Saulo Arboleda Gómez can file as soon as possible —if he so wishes— an appeal to request a review of his conviction, in keeping with Article 8.2.h of the American Convention and with the standards that were detailed in the Merits Report
  3. Take legislative measures to ensure all regulations comply with Article 8.2.h of the American Convention, in keeping with the standards that are detailed in the Merits Report

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 268/21

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