Five former congressmen, all convicted for using death squads to intimidate voters, are suing the Colombian state, demanding compensation for their loss of reputation and income, newspaper El Tiempo reported Monday.
The lawmakers have all been convicted for “parapolitics,” a practice that became common during the 2002 and 2006 elections when dozens of aspiring lawmakers turned to paramilitary organization AUC to coerce voters into voting for political allies of the paramilitaries who by then had been deemed a terrorist organization by both the US and Europe.
Parapoliticians suing the state
According to El Tiempo, the politicians claim to have a right to compensation because their human rights were violated while on trial for their ties to death squads.
Two more “parapoliticians” are considering a similar lawsuit, reported the newspaper.
“They are citing the violation of human rights in Colombia and are asking for a moral and economic compensation of the Colombian state,” defense attorney Ricardo Cifuentes told El Tiempo.
According to the lawyer, the convicted lawmakers were not granted the right to due process as they were tried before the Supreme Court, the country’s highest tribunal, which stripped them of the possibility to appeal their verdict. Additionally, as Colombia’s Supreme Court carried out investigations of the lawmakers’ crimes itself, the court acted as both judge and prosecutor.
Former Supreme Court Justice Carlos Gaviria told El Tiempo the plaintiffs “may be right.”
“It may be so that the court is a very legitimate and reliable entity, the right to appeal is a necessity. I can’t anticipate what the Commission is going to say, but what I see in the lawsuit is reasonable,” said Gaviria.
The congressmen suing the state are five of 40 who were convicted to ties to paramilitary groups. Some 140 more former congressmen have pending investigations against them.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, more than 11,000 politicians, officials and businessmen are suspected of having made pacts with the AUC, which is held responsible for tens of thousands of human rights violations including homicide, torture, forced displacement and rape.