Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Thursday evening proposed the creation of legislation that protects members of Colombia’s armed forces from civil prosecution, following the sentencing of retired army Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega for his role in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege.
Uribe gave a press conference after calling an emergency meeting with Colombia’s high military command, in which he strongly criticized Colombian justice.
“The way to support the victims of the Palace of Justice is not to make victims out of the armed forces … The only thing we ask for from the justice system is impartial and timely justice for the dedicated member of the armed forces, who must not be mistreated for diverting crimes of terrorism throughout our long history,” Uribe said.
Uribe invited “the organs of the state and all Colombians to consider a legislation that guarantees rights to the armed forces.”
Colonel Plazas Vega was sentenced on Wednesday to thirty years in prison for his role in the forced disappearance of eleven civilians in a siege on the Palace of Justice, which had been taken over by M-19 guerrillas.
A Bogota court found the colonel to be responsible for the disappearance and death of the victims who were last seen leaving the besieged palace.
On Thursday Uribe criticized the court’s decision, saying that an army commander who was simply doing his job to protect the Colombian people had been sentenced, while “the criminal actors, none of them are in jail.”
Plazas Vega’s defense team, who had insisted the former colonel was innocent, said they would appeal the verdict.
The Palace of Justice siege is one of the bloodiest episodes in Colombia’s history. More than 100 people were killed on November 6 and 7, including eleven of the country’s 25 Supreme Court justices, all guerrillas involved in the attack, and, presumably, the eleven disappeared civilians.