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Cablegate: Appellate Court Elects New Judge for Labor

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0528 0421745
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111745Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1274
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8041
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9945
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 9224
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5899
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6547
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1224
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000528

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PLEASE PASS TO USTR, BENNETT HARMON AND AARON ROSENBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KJUS PGOV PHUM PTER CO
SUBJECT: APPELLATE COURT ELECTS NEW JUDGE FOR LABOR
VIOLENCE CASES


1. SUMMARY. In late December, 2007, the six-month term for
Colombia's three specially appointed judges handling cases of
violence against unionists ended. As part of its normal
selection process, magistrates of the Appellate Court for
Bogota voted to reappoint Elsa Rivera de Jimenez and Maria
Duran Calderon, but to replace Jose Nirio Sanchez. Under
Colombian law, the 28 magistrates of the Appellate Court vote
on their peers for all specially appointed judgeships, such
as labor violence, corruption and human rights cases. The
judges began hearing cases on January 11. END SUMMARY.

------------------------------------------
INDEPENDENT APPELLATE COURT SELECTS JUDGES
------------------------------------------

2. The three special judges handling cases of labor violence
against unionists--Jose Nirio Sanchez, Elsa Rivera de
Jimenez, and Maria Duran Calderon--heard 39 cases resulting
in 36 convictions in 2007. Under Colombian law, they were
elected by the 28 magistrates of the Appellate court of
Bogota for a six-month term in June 2007. Their appointments
reflected the GOC's effort to boost prosecutions of labor
violence, and complemented the Prosecutor General's
(Fiscalia) creation of a special team of prosecutors and
investigators in its Human Rights Unit to investigate labor
cases.

3. The terms of the three judges expired in December 2007.
After the Christmas holidays and a two-week administrative
judicial leave, members of the Appellate Court selected the
nominees for special judgeships in 2008. Appointments
included judges handling labor violence, corruption and human
rights cases. The Appellate Court magistrates re-elected
Rivera and Duran as special labor judges, but replaced
Sanchez with Teresa Castillo de Casa, who will serve as the
new head labor judge. She has nineteen years of experience as
a judge and is well-respected by her peers. Castillo, Duran,
and Calderon resumed work on labor cases on January 11.

----------------------------------
VOTE REFLECTS MEMBERS' PREFERENCES
----------------------------------

4. The Appellate Court magistrates base their votes for
specially-appointed positions on their personal assessments
of each candidate's ability. Each member votes for three
candidates and those with the greatest number of votes win.
President of the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme
Judicial Council Hernando Torres told us there was no
specific or political reason that Jose Nirio Sanchez was not
re-elected. The majority of the 28 voting judges simply
preferred Castillo for the post. Torres acknowledged that
personal factors might play a role in the selection process,
but said the judiciary's independence in making such choices
is absolute.

5. In meetings with U.S. Congressman George Miller in
January, Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran, and Vice
President Francisco Santos said they supported renewal of all
three original judges but emphasized the independence of the
Appellate Court in its judicial appointments.
Brownfield

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