Colombia’s war crimes tribunal ordered the immediate release of a FARC leader on Wednesday, citing a lack of evidence and “serious irregularities” in due process.
The ruling also denied an extradition request from the United States that last year claimed “Jesus Santrich,” whose real name is Zeuxis Hernandez, conspired to traffic drugs between 2017 and 2018.
In a further blow to the prosecution, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) ordered an investigation into possible misconduct in the investigation against Santrich and said United States authorities may have violated national sovereignty.
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who had already been accused of “intimidating” and “constant meddling” with the transitional justice system, resigned furiously.
Why the case was thrown out
According to the JEP, the evidence of the Prosecutor General’s Office did not allow the court to establish either whether a crime had been committed or when.
This was due to the fact that “the United States Justice Department did not submit the requested evidence as the wiretaps of a different case sent to the JEP by the Prosecutor General’s Office did not contain evidence of the conduct attributed to Hernandez in the extradition request.”
The evidence made public by the prosecution indicated that the nephew of the FARC leader “Ivan Marquez,” Marlon Marin, could have been conspiring to traffic drugs.
In a wiretapped conversation that was released by the prosecution half a year after the FARC leader’s arrest, Santrich was only heard agreeing to meeting to discuss labor projects for reintegrating FARC members.
Why the court wants the prosecution investigated
To make matters worse for both the DEA and Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, the JEP accused the prosecution of “serious irregularities” that would have violated Santrich’ right to due process.
The sworn statement of the DEA agent, one of the US Justice Department’s pieces of evidence, contained “serious irregularities because the Prosecutor General’s Office did not submit the request for judicial assistance that ought to be requested by the foreign authority.”
International law provides that when foreign authorities are going to obtain evidence in another country, they must have due legal assistance, which is the permission to collect evidence. In this case, legal assistance should have been provided by the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Review Section of the JEP was able to establish that the prosecuting entity did not carry out this diligence.
Special Jurisdiction for Peace
According to the JEP, the prosecution said that it did not submit this request, because it never received a formal request for assistance from US authorities because, according to the prosecution, the DEA agent acted on his own behalf.
“The American authorities may have violated the norms of international cooperation and judicial assistance in the gathering of evidence in Colombia” in collusion with the Prosecutor General’s Office, according to the JEP.
Consequently, the Prosecutor General’s Office failed to “respect the rights and fundamental guarantees of citizens and national sovereignty.”
According to the JEP, it had requested the Superior Council to open a criminal investigations against prosecution officials over the alleged criminal activity. Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez furiously resigned after the verdict.