Rights advocates: Colombia must investigate Uribe’s brother

A Nobel prize-winning Argentine and a group of prominent international lawyers say that Colombia must investigate allegations that President Alvaro Uribe’s brother led a paramilitary group, and warned that the charges may be brought internationally if Colombia fails to act.

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who is involved with non-governmental organization the Permanent People’s Tribunal, told W Radio on Monday that Colombian judges should determine whether accusations by a former police major that Santiago Uribe led a paramilitary death squad in the early 1990s warrant further investigation.

Perez added, however, that in the event that Colombian justice does not open an investigation, “it would be right to bring it [the case] to international justice.”

On Sunday, former Colombian police Major Juan Carlos Meneses claimed that Santiago Uribe led a local paramilitary group in the town of Yarumal, where the Uribe family had a business. The group allegedly killed petty thieves, and suspected guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Meneses claimed that the president’s brother was the main fundraiser and strategist behind the “12 Apostles,” a group of prominent citizens that led a number of hitmen. According to Meneses, he attended meetings with the group in which it was decided who was going to be killed. The former police commander’s role was to make sure no authorities would be present at the scene of the murders.

The Uribe family was investigated for alleged paramilitary ties by Colombian prosecutors in the 1990s, but no one was convicted.

Santiago Uribe denies that he or his brother were involved in any crimes and claims the allegations are part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to hurt the president. “The enemies of the president will not rest, and he knows it very well,” Uribe told the newspaper.

On Monday, Colombia’s vice president Francisco Santos attributed the allegations to political scheming, claiming that they form part of a larger, ongoing “plan” to discredit the Uribe administration and influence the upcoming May 30 presidential elections.

“There is something very strange here, too many coincidences with what is going on, in order to influence the electoral process. I do not have the slightest doubt that everything that is happening has a political intent,” Santos said.

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