The former leader of a paramilitary death squad will face the family of one his victims in a Washington court on Friday, reported The Guardian newspaper.
In an unprecedented case, the Colombian family will be permitted to speak in a U.S court about the impact of the perpetrators’ crimes.
Hernan Giraldo Serna once led the “Tayrona Resistance Block,” a faction of the now-defunct AUC paramilitary group that was responsible for the murder of hundreds of farmers, leftist organizers and indigenous leaders on Colombia’s north coast.
This included the torture and murder of farmer Julio Henriquez in 2001, the father of the family that he will face in court.
The widow and two daughters of Henriquez plan on testifying to the impact that his crimes had on the community of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, while emphasizing the importance of ensuring that he does not return to the area he used to terrorize.
Giraldo, whom was given the nickname “the Drill” for the dozens of women he raped, was one of 14 paramilitary leaders to be extradited in 2008 on charges that he provided armed protection for drug traffickers.
The move was roundly criticized as all escaped facing trial in Colombia for crimes against humanity.
He now faces a court hearing having plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
In an interview with W Radio, Henriquez’s daughter Nadiezhda said she hoped that “the sentence will be a long one”, but acknowledged that the former paramilitary is “unlikely” to admit to his crimes in Colombia.
It’s very unlikely that he tells the truth. It’s very hard to imagine that he will continue confessing to crimes. None of the (paramilitaries extradited) have been doing so.
During his tenure in the Tayrona Resistance Block, Giraldo gained a ruthless reputation as he instilled fear in the areas controlled by the paramilitaries.
Reports allege that he would arrive at villages and select underage girls to sexually abuse, while the parents could do nothing, such was the fear he commanded.
While he may not be charged for the horrific crimes against humanity he committed in Colombia, there is hope that the testimony of the Henriquez family will add weight to his conviction in the U.S.
The case could also establish a new precedent that permits more non U.S victims to speak in court against perpetrators charged with drug trafficking.
The AUC, or officially the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, was a right-wing paramilitary organization that operated from 1997 to 2006.
Hundreds of high-ranking political officials including former president Alvaro Uribe are under investigation for links with the organization in a scandal known as “parapolitics.”
Dozens have already been convicted.
The AUC was officially demobilized during Uribe’s presidency but thousands defected into various splinter groups that continue to engage in drug trafficking today.