The Supreme tribunal of Colombia’s second largest city Medellin said on Thursday that it will order Congress and the country’s Supreme Court to formally charge ex-President Alvaro Uribe for ties to paramilitary groups.
Magistrate Ruben Dario Pinilla of the court’s Penal Chamber said that testimonies given before the court by seven former members of paramilitary organization AUC, victims and witnesses provide enough merit for a formal accusation for “parapolitics,” or the use of paramilitary forces for political gain.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics scandal
According to Pinilla, the testimonies corroborate the hypothesis that the controversial former president promoted and helped strengthen the paramilitary groups from when he was governor of the Antioquia department (1995-1997) until after he had assumed the presidency in 2002.
The magistrate said that the political support for the AUC, to whom tens of thousands of human rights violations are attributed, “became an established policy” under Uribe that was “sponsored, permitted and facilitated by the high command of the Armed Forces.”
Uribe has faced accusations of ties to the Medellin cartel and AUC for years before becoming president of Colombia, but has so far avoided formal charges. A number of Uribe’s close former associates and even family members have been convicted for ties to the AUC.
The Supreme Court ordered the arrest of an Uribe-loyal presidential candidate last month over similar charges while two other primary candidates of Uribe’s new Democratic Center party are under investigation for the same crime.
According to the Medellin court, the accumulating evidence indicating Uribe’s involvement in the growth of the paramilitaries between 1995 and 2003 has become too much to ignore.
“It’s impossible to be inside a pool without getting wet,” said Pinilla.
The former President’s alleged paramilitary links are currently under investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is investigating a formal lawsuit brought against the former head of state by leftist opposition politician and Uribe-opponent Ivan Cepeda.
Alleged crimes committed during a president’s term must be investigated by the House of Representatives’ Accusations Committee, which has been investigating Uribe’s alleged role in a conspiracy involving the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court justices, journalists, political opponents and human rights organizations.
Uribe has categorically denied he had ties to the AUC and its blocs and has claimed he was the victim of “criminal revenge” and “political persecution.”