Three administrative notes The Casa de Paz
Jul 202006

Though we’re reluctant to bring up Robert Novak again, we must recall this passage in his June 26 column on Colombia. Here, the columnist cites as a sign of progress the Colombian authorities’ investigation of a military massacre of anti-drug police in Jamundi, near Cali.

During the June 9 House debate, floor manager [Rep. Jim] McGovern and other left-wing Democrats harped on the May 10 drug-related slaughter of 10 crack national anti-drug policemen by the army’s High Mountain Battalion. The unit’s commander, Col. Bayron Carvajal, has been imprisoned and removed from jurisdiction of military court-martial (which has a conviction rate of 4 percent). Carvajal is being prosecuted by Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran, who has evidence of the colonel’s ties to drug trafficking.

In response to this evidence of Colombia’s escape from degradation as a narco-terrorist state, Democrats in the House voted 161- 28 for McGovern’s disastrous cut in U.S. aid.

Sadly, “this evidence of Colombia’s escape from degradation as a narco-terrorist state” has become just the opposite. Yesterday, in what a representative of Colombia’s attorney-general’s office called “a judicial barbarity,” a judge decided that Col. Carvajal and the other soldiers accused of massacring the police unit should be tried in the military justice system, with its “conviction rate of 4 percent.”

Col. Carvajal, reports Semana magazine, could not disguise his glee at the surprising decision.

Both he and his soldiers exploded with jubilation at the news, so much that part of the public in attendance believed that they had won the case, when in reality they were being notified that a military penal judge would head the investigation.

Judge Oscar Hurtado, notes Semana, has been questioned before for decisions that have benefited narcotraffickers. But his decision cannot be appealed.

While we can hope for a miracle from the military justice system, right now it looks very likely that even a case as shocking as the Jamundí massacre might end up going unpunished. Once again, Robert Novak is wrong, and Rep. McGovern got it right.

6 Responses to “A judicial barbarity”

  1. richtiger Says:

    I surely don’t know much about the laberinth of the Colombian justice system. Apparently, in the strictest sense Hurtado’s decision can’t be appealed. However, according to “El Pais” of Cali, the Fiscalia has requested a hearing before a judge “de Control de Garantias.” If this judge determines that the constitutional rights of parties involved in the case were violated, the Fiscalia can petition the “Juez Cuarto” (whatever that is) to allow an appeal.

    Hmmm. All sounds pretty “iffy,” doesn’t it?

    Really, I mainly wanted to post this message to thank Adam for keeping us posted on current events in Colombia–even if they are sometimes rather disheartening. Due to personal projects, I don’t always read the Colombian press like I should. I certainly hope Adam continues this most helpful “blog” even though sometimes only one or two comments are posted. I suspect that the blog is rather widely-read.

  2. Doppiafila Says:

    How sad.

  3. Colombia Hoy Says:

    The situation is not a conclusive one. It is on the hands of the Armed Forces to receive or not the Jamundi’s case. It is not granted that the military criminal justice (justicia penal militar) will take the case. As a matter of fact, today, the commander of the Colombian military forces, rejected the case and reminded that it is the Judiciary System (Consejo Superior de la Judicatura) that will decide whether the case will be under the civilian courts, or not. For now, this is a good news.

  4. Doppiafila Says:

    Hi, it seems Hurtado’s decision will be reversed, and the trial will go back to civil justice. HUrtado has announced his intention to resign in order to protect his life and his family’s.

  5. Izzy Stoner Says:

    Let’s not forget that before he outed Valerie Plame, Robert Novak tried to out the three contractors captured by the FARC as CIA contractors in his Feb. 19, 2003 column. If the FARC ever release those three, Novak had better go into hiding!

  6. jcg Says:

    Apparently the situation is not quite as clear thought as initially thought and it may still be possible for the judge’s decision to be reversed, because he apparently committed some procedural mistakes. Legal technicalities, gotta love them (and hate them too, of course).

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