Thursday, December 23, 2004

Colombia and justice

Stephen McCabe writes about justice in Colombia:

Colombia, where some 3,000 kidnappings occur per year, is a very dangerous place. It would be a particularly dangerous place to any jurist who had the temerity to acquit these three accused if he could find even the flimsiest of evidence to hang his hat on. But no such evidence was adduced. So even a judge in Colombia, who no doubt feared for the safety of not only himself but his family, acquitted the three men of the serious charges and fined them for the lesser offense of traveling on false documents.

Needless to say, the verdict was an unpopular one in certain quarters, particularly in the higher echelons of the Attorney General's office, which was shown, at the very least, to be inept and, more obviously, to be corrupt, since the judge, in his opinion, called for an investigation into the clearly perjurious nature of the testimony proffered.

It has been reported over and over again that the Attorney General's office has been infiltrated by paramilitary elements and sympathizers. No doubt elements of the army were also unhappy with this verdict.

Having observed the judge during the course of the trial it is clear that he is not a stupid man, although there might be those who would say that he may very well be stupid for rendering a verdict such as this. But to all observers it is the only correct verdict that could have been rendered after listening to the evidence.

So-called commentators and also politicians in different countries have also applauded the new verdict. None of them witnessed the trial. I doubt if they have ever read any portion of the trial transcript. On what do they base their opinions? Third-hand rumors generated by drug traffickers? Stories planted by agents with interests in drug trade profits? Politicians interested in maintaining the status quo in a country beset by a civil war over 40 years old? Operatives hopeful to deflect attention from their own activities?

We are now confronted with the spectacle of a judicial tribunal reversing this courageous jurist, finding the men guilty and sentencing them to 17 years in prison without ever having listened to one live witness and presumably only by reading a transcript of the trial.


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