Prominent opposition senators have announced criminal charges against Colombia’s former chief prosecutor and agents of the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), claiming they violated international law and human rights to link a demobilized rebel leader to drug trafficking.
Leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda (Democratic Police) and centrist Senator Antonio Sanguino (Green Alliance) announced the criminal charges on Wednesday during a debate over the controversial arrest of FARC leader “Jesus Santrich” in April last year.
The arrest on the unsubstantiated US claim plunged Colombia’s peace process into an unprecedented crisis.
DEA: from crime fighters to alleged criminals
According to the senators, the country’s war crimes tribunal found enough evidence that would merit a criminal investigation against former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez, DEA agent Brian Witek and possibly other US officials.
The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) said last month it found no evidence indicating whether or when Santrich would have conspired to traffic drugs, but did find indications that Martinez and the DEA had violated international law and human rights in their attempt to nab the FARC leader.
The ruling triggered the immediate and furious resignation of former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez, who left to the US leaving behind multiple fraud, corruption and abuse of power accusations in his home country.
“In the last two years, DEA agents in Colombia have carried out covert operations. Many of them have been illegal and have affected the peace process,” said Cepeda, a victims rights defender and strong supporter of his country’s peace process.
According to the JEP, Martinez told the court that the DEA agents that were after Santrich did not receive the formal permission to carry out criminal investigations and wiretap suspects because they were not acting on behalf of the DEA, but as private citizens.
According to Cepeda, the DEA agents also used entrapment, an illegal investigation method in Colombia, in their failed attempt to have the FARC leader extradited.
The US State Department has failed to make any statements in regards to the alleged misconduct and criminal activity of US embassy agents.
Martinez: from chief prosecutor to alleged criminal
The former chief prosecutor allegedly broke the law for allowing the DEA agents to carry out criminal investigations without any oversight or the compulsory judicial assistance that could prevent foreign agents to engage in criminal conduct, like entrapment or unauthorized wiretapping.
“Martinez repeatedly stated that he was unaware of the role that the DEA was playing in Colombia,” Cepeda told Congress, adding that “I wonder what role the DEA was playing in Colombia and why the Prosecutor General’s Office didn’t know about it.”
The former chief prosecutor has already been sued for tax evasion and has been accused of playing a key role in the bribery practices of Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht and Martinez’ former employer, banking conglomerate Grupo Aval.
He is now alleged of gross misconduct after he admitted he allowed foreign agents to operate in the country without any oversight or judicial assistance.
Because Martinez enjoys special privileges for alleged crimes committed while he was chief prosecutor, he can only be investigated by Congress’ notoriously inactive Accusations Committee.
Witek and his colleagues, ironically, could be requested for extradition to face criminal charges and possibly prison in Colombia.
The DEA’s latest misconduct charges further discredits the agency that already had come under fire after its regional director was accused of using American tax payers’ money to visit prostitutes and other agents were accused of drug trafficking.