By Eduardo Mackenzie
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Widespread criticism aroused in relation to the judgment sentencing, at first instance, colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega to serve 30 years in prison are expanding and heightening.
A few days ago, an academic debate organized by the Sergio Arboleda University of Bogotá gathered a group of outstanding jurists. All of them expressed their extremely serious opinions about this issue and the outcome is unequivocal: the judgment rendered by judge María Stella Jara is outrageous, and a bad example of what any judge worthy of respect must not do and of what the judiciary cannot tolerate in a democracy. The Director of the Criminal Law Department at the Sergio Arboleda University, professor Fernando Velásquez, estimated that Colonel Plazas may not be dealt with as the “principal in the second degree” since none of the legal requirements therefor are met.
He admitted that it is important for Colombia to establish the truth about the events occurred at the Law Courts Building, but that cannot be achieved at all costs.
Professor Christian Wolfhügel, from the same university, said that charging Colonel Plazas with a crime that did not exist by the time of occurrence of the events (i.e. the forzed disappearance of persons) would mean infringing the legality principle that deters the retroactive enforcement of criminal law against the defendant. The judge involved did so with the aggravating factor that she was aware of such situation, since she admitted in her judgment that said crime was not legally defined in the Colombian criminal code by 1985.
Profesor Ricardo Posada Maya, director of the Criminal Law Department at the University of Los Andes, stated, among other things, that it is not clear enough for him whether the events at the Law Courts Building involved the commission of crimes against humanity. He held that in order to affirm that a crime is one against humanity, the standards of International Law should be adopted, which judge Jara seems to have failed to respect, as she got to believe that international treaties had superseded the Colombian Penal Code.
No wonder the president of the hosting university, Rodrigo Noguera Calderón, had previously highlighted in said panel that Colombia’s Criminal Law is undergoing a period of “deep depression”, which demands universities to scrutinize this issue within the context of “academic debates”.
The president of the National Association of Criminal Law & Criminal Science Professors, Jaime Enrique Granados, took part in his capacity as Colonel Plazas’ attorney. He insisted on the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever to hold his client to be criminally liable.
He pointed out that the evidence produced by judge Jara rests upon anomalous and contradictory depositions given by two witnesses and upon the evocation of a transcription of a recording whose material support has never been produced in the relevant court proceedings.
Granados reported that among the 36 charred corpses found at the Law Courts Building there are nine that have not been identified yet, so these could be the so-called missing ones. He also reported that there are people interested in hindering scientific analyses from identifying said corpses and thus debunking the hypothesis that there were some “missing ones” during the tragic episode.
In disagreement with the speakers, professor
Kai Ambos, from the Georg August University of Göttingen, Germany, stated that “the Army perpretrated some atrocities at the Law Courts Building” and that Colombian judiciary is “full of mistakes”. He estimates that judge Jara left Colombia for having been “threatened”. Even so, the German jurist had to admit that he could not say whether the judgment rendered by said judge was “correct or not”.
Annoyed at said comments, judge Jara replied violently from Germany a week later. However, the inflammatory letter she sent to El Espectador, where she heatedly attacks former president Álvaro Uribe, the Armed Forces, the Higher Judicial Council, the press and, especially, two brilliant journalists who justifiably savaged the grotesque judgment against Colonel Plazas, confirms that María Stella Jara is far from being a sober judge detached from the turmoil of political unrest.
On the contraryThe hatred language she uses, and the outrage she sheds through her letter correspond to someone of a fanatic profile, typical of a communist activist who does not have any scruples and allows herself to slander the elected authorities of a democratic country as well as the free press and, above all, she puts her office at the service of some obscure political cause.
Judge Jara is not like the other judges. She sentenced an innocent person to serve 30 years in prison, without finding a single piece of evidence against them. Judges won’t do that. She did. She will not be able to get away with such a responsibility. The judgment she signed on June 9, 2010, is there to prove her felony. She will have to render accounts for that some day to her German colleagues and all of the Colombians. To be in Germany will not release her from such a legal and moral duty.
María Stella Jara is a very weird judge: she is perhaps the only judge in the world who, after sentencing someone and leaving them ill in a military prison, she turns against them and, through a public letter sent from abroad, seeks to distress them even more with the most treacherous defamations, as though the sentence to 30 years in prison had not satisfied her most basic instincts.
According to the judge, Colonel Plazas is behind the threats that she claims to have received. All that is a disgrace aimed to damage the Colonel’s family and friends. Judge Jara’s letter, which she claims to have sent to a German association of judges, states that the “threats [made against her] come from the “highest governmental officials”, that the executive power launches “attacks” against the Supreme Court of Justice, that the DAS, a security agency, performed “illegal wiretappings” on her phone line, that it inspected her “bank accounts and properties”, and that it “orchestrated a discredit campaign” against her.
The problem about such accusations is that they are not supported by evidence. But they just reflect the interested judge’s intimate personal conviction. And, strangely enough, they are a verbatim copy of the rhetoric of certain judges and extremist groups waging war against both the Government and the majorities who reject her poor vision of life. These accusations have not even been proved either by the Government Attorney or the Supreme Court of Justice.
Judge Jara should explain her German colleagues why she turned down such an independent and thorough investigation conducted by the Special Court of Preliminary Criminal Investigation in 1986, carried out by two magistrates and ten judges in charge of criminal investigation proceedings, and why she substituted such a valuable document for a series of feble allegations made by members of the missing ones’ families, who admitted that their data were based on some “anonimous calls”.
Judge Jara will have to explain why she gave credit to Ricardo Gámez Mazuera’s testimony, as said testimony was absolutely distorted and discarded by the Colombian General Attorney’s Office in 1990.
Judge Jara will also have to explain why she upheld the validity of the deposition of Edgar Villamizar Espinel, who had given his testimony in a vacant lot (actually a firing range for high-calibre weapons within the Cavalry School of Bogotá) without the presence of Colonel Plazas’ attorney, and without such evidence having been ordained by the Government Attorney.
Judge Jara will also have to explain why there is no date of receipt of said “testimony” and why such “deposition” was signed by an Edgar Villamil (and not Villamizar). She will also have to explain why she accepted such testimony by being aware that it contained some lies about the informant’s identity and capacity, and knowing that there was no evidence whatsoever that Villamizar had entered, when he never joined the proceedings, and despite the proven fact that Villamizar is not a witness to anything, since he was not involved in the operations performed at the Law Courts Building.
Judge Jara will also have to explain why she rejected the proofs evidencing that Villamizar, during the events taken place at the Law Courts Buildings, was away from Bogotá, at the Vargas batallion of Granada (Meta), for this unit proved that it had neither sent Villamizar, nor any other non-commissioned officer, to the battle waged at the Law Courts Building. She accepted said testimony which contains some more misstatements: such as that Villamizar’s chief was a “Major Jairo Alzate Avendaño”, a name that did not exist in any of the records kept by the Army of Colombia.
Judge Jara will likewise have to explain why she dismissed the statements made by civilian José Vicente Rubiano Galvis, who, having been captured during the events occurred at the Law Courts Building, spent the night of November 7, 1985, at the facilities of the Cavalry School, together with three more people, without seeing or hearing the alleged tortures and torments of the “hostages” that Villamizar tried to introduce into these proceedings. She will also have to explain why no corpses or human remains were found at the Cavalry School of the North Canton, just as Villarreal had claimed.
The upper echelons of the judiciary and the Attorney General’s Office are perfectly aware of these things and know for sure that in these proceedings the laws of the nation were violated and that some day such violations will come to light worldwide.
Probably because of this, after the judgment rendered in the first instance, they ordained a series of weird moves in the judicial personnel involved: judge Jara was sent to Germany and the government attorney in charge of investigating the case was removed from her office on the grounds of professional infringements committed while performing her duty.
With her letter full of insults against Colombia, judge Jara is trying to conceal these and other questions that come to light after reading her disgraceful judgment.
With her tantrum from Germany, she will not stifle the deep sense of unease her judicial performance has left in Colombia.