The Prosecutor General’s Office has received 47 requests for conditional freedom by demobilized paramilitaries under the Justice and Peace Law.
Of the roughly 160 paramilitaries that can be released after serving the minimum eight year sentence under the AUC demobilization Law 975, known as the Justice and Peace Law, 47 have requested to be transferred to house arrest.
The Coordinator for the National Unit of Transitional Justice, Hector Eduardo Moreno, told Colombia Reports Friday that he has only approved five of 47 requests for conditional freedom so far. The rest of the imprisoned paramilitaries have not complied with the necessary requirements for release after serving the minimum of eight years in prison.
Moreno stated that the paramilitaries would not obtain liberty “automatically,” or en masse, and that every individual case will undergo a process of verification.
The beginning of the release of paramilitaries who demobilized under former president Alvaro Uribe‘s Justice and Peace law has generated terror in the hearts of their victims, and NGOs dedicated to human rights.
According to Moreno, the men will participate in a reintegration program providing psychological and social support. The government will also provide a $200 to $300 dollar monthly stipend to support the paramilitaries economically.
The 161 paramilitaries that are eligible for conditional freedom must have satisfied the following requirements:
- served the mandatory eight year sentence, which 60 prisoners completed on August 15 of 2014.
- participated in, and continue to participate in re-socialization programs and be approved by Colombia’s prison police (INPEC) for good behavior.
- contributed to the truth during the Justice and Peace legal proceedings.
- forfeited property and riches for the reparation of victims.
- not committed any crimes while in prison.
Not Enough: NGOs
NGOs invited relevant government agencies to a discussion over the release of the paramilitaries in July, inviting the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Defense Ministry, UNP, and international watch dogs.
Moreno, who did not appear at the meeting or send any representative, told Colombia Reports that requirements such as telling the truth and giving up wealth for the reparation of victims are, “in reality, objective and subjective to evaluation. You can’t say that people who have confessed 5,000 or 1,000 crimes have not clarified the truth.”
Moreno said that all protection measures were being managed by the National Protection Unit. However, two NGOs that work with victims told Colombia Reports that there is little coordination between these agencies, and that no preventive measures are being taken.
Moreno told Colombia Reports that “once a threat is reported, measures are taken,” but NGOs like Corporacion Humanas say that the Colombian state is only able to function reactively, and that UNP methods are ineffective.
When asked what is being done to prepare communities for the return of convicted paramilitary leaders to their former operating grounds, Moreno claimed that that the Prosecutor General’s office has “made the situation known” to the communities. NGOs that work on the ground alleged that the communities have not been consulted or advised regarding the return of paramilitaries.
Of the 47 requests, 11 are high profile AUC commanders that have been prioritized by Moreno. Moreno has focused on these commanders as a way to “target the paramilitary structures themselves that have had a large impact in the local area of operations.”
Paramilitaries prioritized by the Transitional Justice Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office
- Arnubio Triana Mahecha, alias “Botalon” – Commander of AUC Puerto Boyaca Block who operated in Boyaca and Santander. Accused of massacring 14 farmers in Santander state and murdering two detectives investigating his financing scheme. “Batalon” was trained by Israeli mercenary Yair Klein. The prosecutor general has confirmed 45 cases of child recruitment under “Batalon”.
- Edgar Ignacio Fierro, alias “Don Antonio” – Commander of the AUC Juan Pablo Diaz Front that operated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Use to work with Colombia’s military but was kicked out in. “Don Antonio” is said to be responsible for the assassination of two union members, a human rights defender, a government official, and a university professor.
- Ramon Isaza, alias “El Viejo” – Commander of AUC Magdalena Medio Block that operated in southern Antioquia, Caldas, Boyaca, Cundinamarca, and northern Tolima. Alleged mastermind of the massacre of 11 civilians, and the disappearing of 16 civilians. Isaza and his unit have confessed to around 382 crimes resulting in 1,139 deaths.
- Edwar Cobos Tellez, alias “Diego Vecino” – Commander of AUC Montes de Maria Block who operated in the northern states of Sucre and Bolivar. The AUC block has 6,689 registered victims ranging from crimes of torture, homicide, displacement, and disappearances. Attributed the massacres of Macayepo, Chengue, Chinulito, Pigiguay, and El Salado, the displacement of 70,000 civilians in Sucre, and the death of around 90 members of the Patriotic Union party.
- Fredy Rendón Herrera, alias “El Aleman” – Commander of AUC Elmer Cardenas Block that operated in Uraba in the northern states of Choco and Antioquia. His unit has registered 4,301 victims. Among crimes Herrera is complicit in, is the 15 civilians in November 1994 and the kidnapping of activists of peace communities.
- Jorge Ivan Laverde, “El Iguano” – Commander of AUC Catacumbo Block that operated in the state of Northern Santander. The block has 8,183 registered victims from over 3,000 confessed crimes. Confessed to throwing 15 dead bodies into a river and realizing 27 massacres in Cucuta. His paramilitary unit is also responsible for the assassination of a gubernatorial candidate, an ombudsman, and former mayor of Cucuta.
- Uber Banquez, alias “Juancho Dique” – Commander of AUC Canal del Dique Front of the Montes de Maria Block that operated in Sucre and Bolivar. Confessed to 5,377 crimes involving 5,669 victims. Among those, the Massacre of Chengue where 27 farmers were bludgeoned to death.
- Rodrigo Perez Alzate, alias “Julián Bolivar” – Commander of AUC Central Bolivar Block that operated in the southern states of Nariñom Putumayo, Caqueta, Santander, Caldas and Risaralda. The paramilitary unit has 20,868 registered victims.
- Jesus Ignacio Roldan, alias “Monoleche” – Close confidant of the Castaño brothers, supreme commanders of the AUC paramilitaries.
- Ivan Roberto Duque, alias “Ernesto Baez” – Commander of AUC Cacique Pipinta Front of the Central Bolivar Block.
- Manuel de Jesus Piraban, alias “Jorge Pirata” – Commander of AUC Heroes de los Llanos Front of the Centaurios Block. Unit has 6,000 registered victims. Allegedly assassinated 17 members of the Patriotic Union political party. Confessed to 250 homicides, 40 cases of child recruitment, 40 cases of forced displacement, and one case of sexual abuse committed by a subordinate.
Paramilitaries that have been granted conditional freedom:
- Jesus Noraldo Basto alias “Parabolico” – AUC communications chief
- Victor Asis Quintero alias “Cocoliso” – AUC Heroes Block
- Jhon Jairo Alvarez alias “El Mono” – AUC Bananero Block
- Ramiro de Jesús Rojas alias “Pocalucha” or “Ramon” – AUC Northeast Antioquia Block
- José de Jesús Pérez alias “Sancocho” – AUC Calima Block
Moreno stated that the National Unit of Transitional Justice will review the testimonies given, make sure no crimes were committed during the eight years in prison, and confirm that the former paramilitaries completed the requirements under the Justice and Peace Law.
What happens if the paramilitaries continue to commit crimes following their release? Moreno told Colombia Reports that this “is a very possible situation, because Colombia is a country at war. In the case that a released ex-combatant commits a crime, the conditional freedom will be revoked and they could be excluded from the benefits given to them under the Justice and Peace Law (Law 975).”
Colombia’s civil society and human right defenders await anxiously to see how the release of these paramilitaries will affect the dynamic of the armed conflict and victims themselves.
- Dirección de Fiscalia National Especializada en Justicia Transicional (Prosecutor General)
- Interview Hector Moreno (Colombia Reports)
- Transcript of July 15 meeting between NGO and Government
- Verdad Abierta profile on paramilitary commanders
- Adriana Benjumer. Executive Director, Corporacion Humanas (Colombia Reports)
- Jomary Ortegon, Vice Prseident, Colective de Abogados Jose Alvear Resrepo