To the authorities of the Republic of Colombia,
My name is Juan Francisco Lanao. When I was 18 months old, the presence and love of my mother was taken away from me, and I have been forced to live with the pain this event left.
For almost 30 years, I have been subjected to the weak performance of the Colombian justice system.
I address the State, public institutions, and Colombian society with the means to make a personal and special request for your attention, since it comes from the feeling of pure love a son has for his mom.
My mother, Gloria Isabel Anzola de Lanao, worked as an independent lawyer, and she had her office a few blocks away from the Palace of Justice. Her aunt, my great-aunt Aydee Anzola Linares, lent her the parking spot assigned to her as a magistrate of State inside the Palace of Justice. After the events of November 6 and 7, 1985, the only things that remained in the lot were a car full of ashes and my baby car seat. I never knew anything more about her.
This request derives from the sentence for the forced disappearance of Gloria Anzola de Lanao, my mother, who is one of the missing persons from the horrendous and brutal events that touched the world; events known as the “Palace of Justice Siege” that took place in Bogota in 1985.
It is impressive that my mom practiced her profession within the Judicial Branch in Colombia, looking for justice, trusting the institutions while these institutions’ lack of rules and execution of justice denied my mom the right to live. The justice with which my mom practiced as a lawyer has been missing for almost 30 years in this case.
Last November, on the eve of the final audience of the Palace of Justice’s Siege case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Judicial Branch finally released a sentence in the administrative contentious jurisdiction for the forced disappearance of my mother, which felt like a light in a long, dark path. Simultaneously, the State publicly announced that the responsibilities for the crimes in this case were imminent, but they only partially recognized the crimes committed against her.
In the case of my mother, reparations were ordered, and within these, extraordinary non-pecuniary measures were taken, such as the construction of a monument in the Bolivar square (Plaza de Bolivar) and the presentation of public apologies for the crimes committed. These were to act as guarantees for the events to not be repeated, considering the memory of the victims. The events of the Palace of Justice Siege resulted in a hundred innocent civilian casualties that took place in front of the Presidential Palace, and it was the worst attack on the Judicial Branch in Colombian history.
For the missing persons, their whereabouts are still unknown, while irregularities and impunity have been part of the process of such horrible crimes that led to the torture and forced disappearance of many people.
This sentence, after a long process, is an attempt to compare “what is legal to what is fair,” — a chance for the State and its institutions to finally ratify a will of good faith in the executions of its duties and for the welfare of all of its citizens.
In order to effectively make reparations measures in my favor, I had tried an approach with the institutions. The terms for expiration of the execution of these sentences were about to end, and what I found is that the Ministry of Defense sued the Tribunal, adopting a contradictory attitude to the mandates from the sentence and applying dilatory measures to the compliance of the sentence.
The Ministry of Defense relies on assumptions and defects in the methodology procedures and excuses the crime that they committed against my mother while looking to dilute the compliance of the sentence.
In easy to understand terms, the expert litigants from the military forces “did not carry out” the decision of the sentence despite it being a public edict.
Sincerely, this is a continuing act against humanity, it is not justice, and it is not fair for the case of my mom that has had a delay of almost 30 years. The sentence was not appealed within the terms established and by letting this happen, it shows the weakness and ease of the violation and infringement of individual rights.
How can we keep talking about terms and agreements; and peace and progress, when even these measures are not being accomplished?
The dilatory response of the Ministry of Defense represents a lack of respect and consideration for my mother and the other victims. We are not talking about economical compensations. We approach them for compliance in the measures as a guarantee that history will not be repeated; for conciliation and for their memories.
Nowadays, we have shown that we are a country, Colombia is unified in a new era of progress in times of reconciliation and peace towards progress, but how could it be possible, given the lack of alignment of the institutions of the State, to restrain and delay the compliance of sentences for crimes as such as detention, torture, murder, and the forced disappearance of an individual?
I shudder to see how time keeps going on, and the State impassively watches how the truth and those responsible for the crimes are being hidden away. More and more victims continue to perish, taking on their journey that hope of truth that they never received.
We have had to create a hope supported by just hope alone, waiting with the hope that one day justice is achieved, and that moment when we can receive justice for our victims. In my case, to render homage with a sacrament for my mother to rest in peace, and to realize with this act of faith, her eternal rest — to overcome this painful chapter, and to try to close this wound that always will leave a mark.
I feel indignation and anger seeing the lack of political will of our leaders in clarifying this fact that divided the history of our country, and I will not be resentful because of this; on the contrary, I’m convinced that that would not be the path my mom would have liked me to follow. I will keep concentrating my efforts in order to keep alive the memory of my mother and other innocent victims like her, through a project that delivers a clear message to present and future generations, in order that we raise awareness that events like this should not be repeated, ever.
The development and progress of a country are not determined just by economical indicators. Collective and social developments play a very important role based on the ethic conscience of a community.
I MAKE THIS CALL with this communication asking for the consideration of this and for support in order that justice is executed. The State should act, and the institutions should have a humanity realignment that respects victims and justice. The execution of this sentence should be an example, real, clear, and concise as the justice that we would all like.
The consideration of this request could mean a great step towards the path to truth, justice, reparation, and the reconciliation that we all want. For me, it will represent part of the medicine to attenuate the mark that it has made on me. Another reason for the purpose of a teenager as me, that form the memory of this nefarious experience in life, in order to reach the generations of today and tomorrow, with an encouraging message and a positive outreach of social community, respect to life, and to be exemplary in the conservation of sustainable memory and the respect of the rights of all.
Nothing will bring my mom back! But if I can do something to make this a better country and add credibility to the institutions, I will not save any effort from my end, since with this I pay tribute and honor the wishes and dedication of her profession, in an attempt to make a more fair Colombian justice system.