Following the assassination last week of a judge in central Colombia, a group of justices on Monday spoke out against what they feel is President Uribe’s creation of an environment of hostility towards the judiciary.
Leonardo Ceron, spokesman for the Corporation of Judges and Magistrates of Colombia, said on Monday that the murder of Judge Fernando Patiño had been provoked in part by the president’s constant attacks on the high courts.
“The bad example comes from the head,” Ceron complained, “when the president of the republic starts to attack the decisions of our high courts, and when the head of state begins to launch media attacks about the administration of justice, well, what can be expected from the rest of the levels of power?”
Ceron said that many in Colombia want to blame judges for the quick exit of criminals from prison, but that justices should not be confused with police, who are the ones who capture criminals within existing rules. However, judges have a responsibility to defend the rights of the accused, and might have to reverse rulings that are based on errors in lower courts, leading to the misperception that judges are letting criminals go free.
The judges’ representative warned that if the type of systematic persecution of justices that helped lead to judge Patiño’s murder continues, that justice itself in the country will be hindered.