A Bogota court ordered Colombia’s Justice Ministry to protect the family of the extradited ex-AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso before giving further testimonies about his paramilitary activities, reported newspaper El Espectador Thursday.
The court said Mancuso’s family should receive protection “within 10 days.”
Mancuso, who is currently serving a prison sentence in the United States for drug trafficking, said he had asked the government to protect his family “for years,” without success, prompting the Supreme Tribunal to take action on Thursday.
“This court asks the prosecutor general and the Ministry of Justice to take measures (…) in the case of Mr. (Salvatore) Mancuso Gomez’ family,” said Alexandra Valencia of Bogota’s Supreme Tribunal.
“It cannot be an unfulfilled hope […] it is a judicial order,” Valencia continued, referring to Mancuso’s unwillingness to give further testimonies. The former paramilitary has refused to give details about former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s alleged collaboration with the AUC without security guarantees for his family members in Colombia.
On June 29 of this year, Mancuso told the Prosecutor General’s Office members of the Colombian military aided the expansion of the paramilitary organization AUC.
The former paramilitary commander is expected to give further important information about the activities of the Catatumbo Bloc, a subdivision of the AUC, which Mancuso commanded.
According to conflict-monitoring website Verdad Abierta, the Prosecutor General’s Office’s Justice and Peace branch is currently in the process of investigating 103 crimes committed by the Catatumbo Bloc between 1998 and 2004. Mancuso’s testimony along with those of other high-ranking commanders are crucial to furthering the case.
Mancuso demobilized together with 1,434 members of the Catatumbo Bloc in December 2004.
As a demobilized paramilitary of the AUC, Mancuso was initially a beneficiary of Colombia’s Justice and Peace Law, under which, demobilized paramilitaries may only recieve a maximum of eight years in prison, provided they confess their crimes and permanently surrender arms. In 2008 Mancuso lost the right to enjoy benefits under the law after being extradited to the United States on charges of drug trafficking.