IACHR Brings Colombia Case before IA Court

May 30, 2023

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Washington, D.C. — On October 21, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) concerning Colombia over the forced disappearance of Jhon Ricardo Ubaté and Gloria Bogotá during a police operation and impunity in relation to these events.

Jhon Ricardo Ubaté and Gloria Bogotá belonged to the Popular Liberation Army. As a member of the Human Rights Committee of Commune 20 in Cali, Jhon Ricardo Ubaté spoke out against acts of violence committed by paramilitary groups. As a result, they were kidnapped by armed men in 1995. The Metropolitan Police managed to intercept the vehicle in which the victims were being transported but when they realized that it belonged to the Police Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Unit (UNASE), they let the vehicle continue.

The Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into these events and implemented measures targeting UNASE agents for the crimes of aggravated kidnapping, false testimony, breach of public duty through unlawful counsel, and misrepresentation in public documents. However, the Fourth Criminal Court acquitted the defendants. This decision could not be challenged by the petitioning party since they were not informed of the ruling in a timely fashion and their subsequent actions to request that it be overruled were denied. Other initiatives that sought to impose disciplinary sanctions and remove the agents in question from their posts resulted in the exoneration of the individuals who were allegedly responsible.

What happened to Jhon Ricardo Ubaté and Gloria Bogotá is deemed forced disappearance, as they were deprived of their freedom by state agents. Furthermore, the victims' relatives have stated that pressure was put on them not to testify at the prosecutor's office, part of a cover-up that sought to deny the fact that the victims had been detained and conceal their whereabouts.

There was no immediate, timely diligence in the investigation and search for the victims, as required in the case of a report of forced disappearance, nor was due diligence carried out during the investigations. As a result, 25 years later, the events have not been clarified, nor have the victims been found, which also implies that the guarantee of a reasonable time in proceedings has been violated.

Finally, the IACHR stressed that Astrid Liliana González Jaramillo, who had to emigrate from the country, and Sandra del Pilar Ubate, both of whom are relatives of Jhon Ricardo Ubaté, experienced threats, harassment, and an attempted kidnapping after speaking out against the forced disappearance. The State did not investigate these events nor did it offer them the protection they needed. In light of these considerations, the State is responsible for violating the right to psychological and moral integrity to the detriment of the family members identified in the report.

Based on these findings, the IACHR concluded that the Colombian State is responsible for the violation of the rights established in articles 3 (juridical personality), 4 (the right to life), 5 (the right to personal integrity), 7 (personal liberty), 8.1 (judicial guarantees), 22 (the right to movement and residence), and 25.1 (judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to the obligations established in Article 1.1. It further concluded that the State is responsible for the violation of articles I.a) and I.b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, given that the Colombian State has deposited its instrument of ratification of this treaty.

In its merits report, the IACHR made the following recommendations to the State of Colombia:

  1. Provide compensation for material and nonmaterial damages to the victim's family members listed in the report.
  2. Adopt measures to determine the whereabouts of the missing victims, involving their families in this process, and, if necessary, identify the victims' mortal remains and return these to their families.
  3. Launch, continue, or reopen the criminal investigation into these events diligently, effectively, and within a reasonable period of time, so as to completely clarify the facts, identify all those who may be responsible for them, and impose the corresponding sanctions.
  4. Guarantee comprehensive, humanitarian assistance for Astrid Liliana González Jaramillo, who is currently in a situation of displacement, and the necessary security measures to enable her to return to Colombia if she so wishes.
  5. Provide physical and mental healthcare measures for the victims' relatives, if they so wish.
  6. Adopt the necessary measures to prevent events such as those described in this case from being repeated.

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. 102/23

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