Retired Colombian army general Ivan Ramirez Quintero and two fellow soldiers were acquitted Friday of the disappearance of 11 people in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege.
Ramirez Quintero, alongside Sergeant Gustave Arevalo and Major Fernando Blanco, was accused of the forced and aggravated disappearance of 11 people that went missing during a 1985 guerrilla attack on Colombia’s Supreme Court and subsequent Army offensive.
More than 100 people, including all of the rebels and 11 of 25 Supreme Court Justices, died in the Army’s attempt to retake the building from the M-19 guerrilla group — and the military was also accused of torturing and murdering the 11 people who went missing.
Only one person — Army Colonel Alfonso Plazas — has ever been convicted in relation to the siege. Plazas was sentenced to 30 years in 2010 for his role in the forced disappearances.
The prosecution had requested Quintero’s acquittal for the forced disappearance of all 11 people — who comprised eight workers from the court’s cafeteria and three occasional visitors — on the basis that there was no certainty regarding what had happend or his involvement.
However a conviction was demanded for the disappearance of guerrilla Irma Franco, as documentary evidence existed strongly suggesting she was moved from the Palace of Justice to army intelligence headquarters for interrogation and torture.
The prosecutor said, “[Franco] was separated from the rest of the people who left the Palace of Justice alive and subjected to a violent interrogation (…), a procedure which constituted a precursor to her forced disappearance (…) and this would have required a superior order which could have only come from Colonel Ivan Ramirez Quintero.”
Ramirez Quintero’s lawyer John Fernando Vasquez had argued that his client was not even present during the retaking of the court and the testimonies which supposedly incriminated him in the disappearances were inconsistent and inconclusive.
67-year-old retired general has been held at a military barracks since 2008, but can now go free on bail.