The protests, which were organized by Colombia’s National Judicial Association, caused court houses around the country to suspend activity for three hours, as some 25,000 of the country’s judges, prosecutors and court employees took to the streets.
The association’s directors called the protest less than a week ago, when President Uribe publicly criticized the Supreme Court for it’s decision to approve an arrest warrant for former government official Mario Aranguren – who is suspected of involvement in the illegal wiretappings of security agency DAS.
Fabio Hernandez, a representative of the association said that the aim of the protest was “to set a precedent of respect for the foundations of the democracy” and to convince Uribe to “stop his affronts to the judges of Colombia.”
He said, “In treating the judges like shyster lawyers in the service of terrorism [Uribe] places at greater risk the lives and personal integrity of those people in a country with so much social conflict and where there are so many armed organizations at the margin of the law imbued with fanaticism.”
Hernandez spoke in reference to a statement made last week by the president, in which Uribe called the decision to arrest Aranguren an “injustice” and said that although he generally has complete trust in Colombia’s judicial system, the arrest of the government official caused “a tremendous lack of confidence” in the Court.
The president went on to accuse an unnamed “higher body” of pressuring a judge to order the arrest of a government official, to which the president of the Supreme Court, Jaime Arrubla, responded saying “To give an order to a judge is a crime … In Colombia, judges are independent, no one can influence their decisions. Because of that, what the president said [yesterday] cannot remain out in the open like that, it delegitimizes the institution.”
Uribe has since criticized the Supreme Court again, saying that a Bogota court was mistaken in it’s decision to sentence retired Colombian army colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega to 30 years in jail for his role in the forced disappearance of 11 civilians in the 1985 army siege of the Palace of Justice, which had been taken over by M-19 guerrillas.
The president commented that the bloody siege was due to a criminal alliance between drug traffickers and guerrillas, and said that an army commander who was simply doing his job had been sentenced, while “the criminal actors, none of them are in jail.”