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Cablegate: Military Justice Offsite Yields Progress

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0921/01 0681602
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081602Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1834
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0070
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR 9296
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5991
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1364
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6643
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4327
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000921

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: MILITARY JUSTICE OFFSITE YIELDS PROGRESS


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. At an offsite conference in Paipa organized and funded
primarily by SOUTHCOM with USAID and DOJ support, senior
Ministry of Defense and Prosecutor General's office officials
made progress in addressing extrajudicial killings by
military personnel. Participants discussed their
interpretations of current rules, regulations, and laws,
calling the conference an unprecedented opportunity to
discuss these issues in a frank manner. The military and the
Prosecutor General's office agreed to set up working groups
on jurisprudential and operational issues that would make
recommendations aimed at facilitating civilian investigations
of combat deaths, increasing communication between civilian
and military officials, and better defining Colombia's legal
framework governing the application of force. END SUMMARY.

2. The USG hosted an offsite conference in Paipa on February
20-21 entitled "Public Forces and the Administration of
Justice." High-level participants included Commander General
of the Colombian Armed Forces General Freddy Padilla,
Commander of the Army General Mario Montoya, Director of
Military Penal Justice Luz Marina Gil, Vice Minister of
Defense Sergio Jaramillo, Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran,
National Director of the Prosecutor general's office German
Ortega, Director of the Human Rights Unit of the Prosecutor
General's office Sandra Castro, Director of the Technical
Investigation Corps (CTI) Marilu Mendez. Other senior level
officials and military representatives of the Ministry of
Defense (MOD) and the Prosecutor General's office attended,
as well as officials from the UN High Commission for Human
Rights (UNHCHR) and the International Red Cross (ICRC), the
Inspector General's office, the Human Rights Ombudsman's
office, and the Presidential Program on Human Rights.

--------------
BUILDING TRUST
--------------

3. Ambassador Brownfield opened the conference by
underscoring that respect for human rights and the rule of
law are key to establish the military's legitimacy and to
sustaining the popular support needed for a successful
counter-terrorst campaign. He said inter-agency cooperation
based on strong leadership, training, and education are
crucial to achieving these goals.

4. The Ambassador's call for cooperation was echoed by
General Padilla and Prosecutor General Iguaran. Both
acknowledged existing tensions between the military and the
Prosecutor's office; but, they agreed the military and the
judicial system must have a zero-tolerance policy on human
rights abuses. The legitimacy of military operations was
strengthened by transparent investigations and prosecution of
violators. Padilla said democratic security is a national
priority, and confidence-building and establishing
credibility among state actors on human rights are top
priority.

--------------------------------
WORKING GROUPS AND THE WAY AHEAD
--------------------------------

5. The MOD and the Prosecutor General's office agreed to
continue working together to ensure effective investigations
on human rights abuses, including improved training and the
development of protocols defining the investigative functions
and responsibilities of civilian and military authorities.
The military and Prosecutor General's office agreed to
discuss the creation of a permanent working group--supported
by the ICRC--to define the applications of International
Humanitarian Law (IHL or the law of war) in the Colombian
context. In addition, the MOD agreed to brief members of the
Prosecutor General's office on military rules of engagement,
military operational law, and the FARC's modus operandi in
operations. The Prosecutor General's office agreed to engage
MOD on areas of joint and cross training, including increased
MOD understanding of civilian jurisdiction, criminal law, and
procedure.

6. The MOD offered to invite regional and local human rights
prosecutors to a series of seven divisional conferences to be
held over the next several months to improve communication
between local officials and to review local security and
operational situations. The MOD suggested that the
conference agendas would replicate the agenda from Paipa but
incorporate a wider pool of participants.

-------------------------
FOCUS ON PRACTICAL ISSUES
-------------------------

7. CTI Director Mendez, Human Rights Unit Director Castro,
and Army Commander General Montoya discussed how to develop a
working framework to move forward. Areas for discussion
include protocols on crime scene and evidence issues, access
to witnesses and evidence, and logistical support for CTI
investigators, forensic experts and prosecutors to get to
crime scenes. Military Criminal Justice (MPJ) Director Luz
Marina Gil said MPJ would present a list of cases that lacked
any response from the Prosecutor General in terms of
jurisdiction. Gil emphasized that 137 cases of potential
extrajudicial killings had already been transferred from the
military to ordinary justice system from 2005-2007, and noted
that continued coordination of cases with the Fiscalia will
be an integral part of the military justice reform process.

8. The Prosecutor General's office offered to provide a flow
chart describing the civilian investigation process. MOD and
MPJ will also work to promote more effective military first
responder actions. The Prosecutor General's office
emphasized the critical importance in their investigators
getting to a potential crime scene as quickly as possible and
ensuring there is minimal disturbance of the scene. The
Prosecutor General's office also noted the need to gain
access to military evidence which may be relevant to the
investigation of incidents. The MOD stressed the need for
the Prosecutor General's office to share evidence when the
military is also conducting criminal investigation. This
exchange highlighted the continuing problem of parallel
investigations and a need for clearer and quicker decisions
on case jurisdiction.

--------------------------------------------- -
SCOPE OF MILITARY JURISDICTION STILL IN DEBATE
--------------------------------------------- -

9. Colombia's legal framework governing the application of
force was central to the discussion. The participants
identified several key issues including timely determination
of jurisdiction, i.e., civilian vs. military, legal value of
rules of engagement, and the circumstances in which IHL
should apply. Vice Minister Jaramillo reiterated that there
is a pressing need for more transparent investigations, clear
protocols between military and civilian authorities, and the
need for greater trust by the military in the civilian legal
system. The Embassy offered to bring in international law
experts to support a small inter-agency working group focused
on clarifying the legal framework.


Brownfield

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