Grim update from Córdoba Friday links (Sunday video edition)
Feb 172010


It’s been almost two years since the Colombian government extradited most of the old AUC paramilitary leadership to the United States to face drug charges. While it is positive to see these once-powerful warlords behind bars, they are here to be tried for narcotrafficking only — not for the thousands of murders and other human rights crimes for which they are responsible.

The extraditions have brought nearly two years of additional frustration for victims trying to recover stolen property or learn what happened to their loved ones; for prosecutors trying to dismantle the paramilitaries’ criminal networks; and for investigators trying to determine who in Colombia’s politics and armed forces gave the murderous militias support, funding and arms.

The Berkeley Law School’s International Human Rights Law Clinic released a report yesterday that is by far the best source of information and analysis on what has happened since the extraditions began. “Truth behind Bars: Colombian Paramilitary Leaders in U.S. Custody” (PDF) lays out the apparently inadvertent damage that the extraditions have done to the cause of truth and justice in Colombia. It also, however, recommends workable steps that the U.S. and Colombian governments might take to set things right.

Here are just a few excerpts from the report. Download the full 4.1MB PDF file here.

Most extradited paramilitaries have dropped out of the “Justice and Peace” process, and thus do not have to speak to Colombian authorities at all.

Only five of the thirty Defendants have continued their voluntary statements at the Justice and Peace hearings from the United States. Defendant Salvatore Mancuso participated in four version libre confession sessions from the United States, more than the other extradited leaders. During these sessions, he detailed several massacres and trade unionist murders. However, on September 30, 2009, Mancuso announced his decision to withdraw from the process. His announcement came three days after fellow extradited AUC leader Diego Murillo Bejarano made a similar announcement. In letters to Colombian authorities, both Defendants cited unexplained delays, the inability to confer with subordinates, and threats to family members in Colombia as the reasons for their decisions. Colombian authorities have confirmed the difficulties in securing the Defendants’ continued participation. Of thirty-nine hearing requests made by Colombian authorities during a five- month period, only ten were satisfied.

Victims are cut out almost completely. U.S. prosecutors have chosen not to apply the Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA).

To preserve victim involvement in the Justice and Peace process, Colombian and U.S. authorities initially planned for Defendants to testify via video conference for viewing by accredited victims in Colombia. In practice, however, Colombian authorities have cancelled several transmissions because of lack of funds. Similarly, U.S. custody of Defendants has frustrated victims’ ability to question perpetrators directly, as stipulated by the Justice and Peace Law. …

Colombian victims have been unable to pursue economic redress against Defendants through the U.S. criminal proceedings. In theory, victims are eligible to collect compensation from Defendants and to inform the terms of a plea bargain and eventual sentence under the U.S. Crime Victims Rights Act (CVRA). However, U.S. prosecutors have opposed the efforts of Colombian victims to intervene and have refused to acknowledge them as victims under the statute. This approach prevents victims from even learning of the status of the prosecutions of Defendants.

The extraditions have effectively blocked other judicial investigations aiming to dismantle paramilitarism and punish collaborators, including the “para-politics” investigations. U.S. officials aren’t even responding to information requests coming from Colombian prosecutors and even Supreme Court justices. Those who helped the paramilitaries now have little reason to fear that the extradited leaders might reveal their identities.

Colombian investigations outside the Justice and Peace process have been stymied by the extradition of Defendants. At the direction of the United States, Colombia has forwarded all requests for judicial cooperation to the justice attaché at the U.S. Embassy. However, Colombian judges
and prosecutors report that U.S. officials have not been sufficiently responsive. Transmission of information has been delayed and cancellations of exchanges are frequent. In a May 21, 2009 letter to a Colombian non-governmental organization, the Colombian Human Rights Unit identified fifty-four unanswered requests for judicial assistance. … Colombia’s Supreme Court has encountered similar difficulties. For instance, since late 2008, the Supreme Court has made multiple requests to take statements from Defendants, including AUC leaders Carlos Jiménez Naranjo, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, and Diego Murillo Bejarano. However, as of October 28, 2009, U.S. authorities had not responded.

The report has three recommendations for the U.S. government.

  • Create an effective and efficient procedure for judicial cooperation. The United States should review current policy to identify the cause of delays in responding to requests for cooperation. New procedures should ensure that U.S. authorities share information with and respond to requests by Colombian authorities in a timely manner to minimize any impact of the extraditions on open investigations in Colombia.
  • Incentivize extradited paramilitary leaders to disclose details about all their crimes and the identities of their accomplices in the military, government and national and foreign businesses. The United States should actively encourage extradited leaders to testify about their crimes and allies by conditioning sentence reductions or other benefits achieved through plea-bargaining on effective cooperation. Possible benefits of cooperation should include provision of visas to family members of Defendants under threat in Colombia. … The U.S. Department of Justice should reverse its current policy of taking “no position” on whether Defendants should cooperate with Colombian authorities.
  • Initiate investigations for torture committed by extradited paramilitary leaders. [P]ursuant to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has ratified, the State Party in whose territory an alleged torturer is found has a duty to either extradite that individual, or to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.” This duty is also supported by U.S. domestic anti-torture legislation. … The United States should hold extradited leaders accountable for all their crimes under federal law, including torture, and promote justice for Colombian victims.

11 Responses to ““Truth Behind Bars”: extradition should not shield paramilitary leaders”

  1. común Says:

    Don Mario, whose extradition to the U.S. is pending, is talking….

  2. Camilla Says:

    Here’s a little morning pain for all you Uribe-haters out there:

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Excellent information. It’s now clear who is really hindering the justice and peace show. The US helps Colombia and covers up the narco state because of geoestrategical reasons, period. No mercy for victims, just cold blooded politics. Thanks Adam, sometimes you seem to be more Colombian than the stupefied intimidated crowd that inhabits that God forgotten land.

    And to Camilla you seemed to have missed first podcast by Adam predicting Uribe’s stay in power takes what it takes. The hoodlum wouldn’t have it any other way.

  4. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Oh, I forgot, and the US would not have it any other way either …

  5. Kyle Says:


    Thank you for posting a link to this report. When I first read about it in El Espectador, I spent the whole day looking, but it appears to have come out the day after the story.

    Best Regards,

  6. Randy Paul Says:

    Here’s a little morning pain for all you Uribe-haters out there:

    [BIG YAWN]

  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Randy I don’t know if this one should fit better


  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    The many faces of disinformation:

    Camilla read this and weep :)

  9. Randy Paul Says:


    It’ll do, but here’s what truly annoys me about Camilla’s lickspittle support of Uribe: if she really cared about Colombia, she should applaud the establishment of institutions that ensure the continuation of policies that make Colombia safer and more prosperous for all, not the continued reelection of one man.

    Unless of course she believes Uribe is a god and is immortal . . .

  10. Plan Colombia and Beyond » Podcast: Extradited Paramilitaries and “Truth Behind Bars” Says:

    [...] which has complicated efforts to win justice for their victims. (The report was summarized in a recent entry to this [...]

  11. Tambopaxi Says:

    Re: the UC comments on lack of cooperation by USG authorities with the GOC once the extraditions have happened, I’d suggest that the GOC suspend all further extradition proceedings until and when the USG agrees (in writing) to accede to all/all Colombian info requests, etc. Oh, and obviously, compliance with written agreements by the U.S. If the Americans like those extraditions, there needs to be a functional quid pro quo which satisfies the objectives of the GOC and the families of the victims of these murderous wretches….

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