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Cablegate: Colombian Supreme Court Ruling Threatens Legal

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DE RUEHBO #5530/01 2112337
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 302337Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7734
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9214
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL 8861
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5292
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 5892
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4031
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHBO/USMILGP BOGOTA CO PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 005530

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KJUS PGOV PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN SUPREME COURT RULING THREATENS LEGAL
FRAMEWORK OF PARAMILITARY DEMOBILIZATION

1. Summary: On July 25, President Uribe announced the GOC
would introduce a bill in Congress to reverse a July 11
Supreme Court (SC) decision that removes the legal basis for
pardoning 18,000 demobilized paramilitaries for their
membership in the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia
(AUC) and related minor crimes, and undermines the legal
framework of the paramilitary peace process. The bill would
clarify the status of the affected paramilitaries, but would
exclude paramilitary leaders who committed serious human
rights crimes or legislators who cooperated with the AUC.
The ruling has triggered sharp political debate, including
verbal clashes between Uribe and members of the Supreme
Court. Uribe is expected to introduce the bill in Congress
as soon as August 8. End Summary.

2. A July 11 Supreme Court ruling stating that crimes of
former paramilitary members were common crimes--not political
crimes--threatens the legal framework of the paramilitary
peace process and triggered fireworks between President Uribe
and the Court. The SC's decision reflects the stance that
the paramilitary was a criminal, not political group, and
leaves 18,000 demobilized rank and file paramilitaries who
have not yet been pardoned for their membership in the AUC
and related minor crimes exposed to prosecution. The GOC
argues sedition charges should apply to paramilitary members
who have not committed serious crimes, thereby enabling the
GOC to pardon them. The Court's ruling does not affect
paramilitary leaders charged with serious human rights
violations or politicians charged for colluding with
paramilitaries. The ruling leaves open the question of
whether it will be retroactively applied to the 12,000
paramilitaries who have already been pardoned through the
peace process.

3. The Justice and Peace Law (Law 975), in conjunction with
Law 782, set up the legal framework for the demobilization of
the AUC, offering rank and file paramilitaries pardons for
their membership in the AUC and for minor crimes while
providing reduced sentences to paramilitaries guilty of
serious human rights violations in exchange for full
confessions and reparations. Under the Court's ruling, the
National Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalia) would face
prosecuting up to as many as 30,000 demobilized
paramilitaries. The GOC argues this would encourage the
demobilized to return to crime and would overwhelm the
Fiscalia.

4. A meeting between Minister of Justice and Interior
Holguin and SC magistrates on July 27 to discuss the issue
was called off after President Uribe accused the Court of
having an "ideological slant" and threatening the peace
process. Uribe said the peace process has been openly
debated by all sectors of society and should not be
overturned by one branch of government. The President
announced he will send a bill to Congress making sedition
applicable to all members of illegal armed groups who have
not committed serious human rights abuses. He argued that
guerrilla fighters and paramilitaries should be treated
equally under the law and that all parties, including the
various branches of government, must do their part to advance
the peace process.

5. SC President Cesar Julio Valencia quickly denounced the
President,s "interference" in judicial matters and said the
SC is not obstructing the peace process in any way. He
called the President,s statements about the Court and his
proposed bill a "grave and dangerous" form of censorship. The
president of the SC,s Penal Court, Alfredo Gomez Quintero,
said pardons are reserved explicitly for political crimes.
The heart of the problem lies in the inherent weakness of the
JPL. Paramilitary spokesman Antonio Lopez said the
organization would protest the Supreme Court ruling by
halting participation in confessions (version libres) of
former paramilitaries in Bogota, Medellin and Barranquilla.
The paramilitaries later resumed participation after Uribe's
announcement that he would seek legislation reversing the
Court's ruling.

6. An editorial in the Bogota daily El Tiempo on July 30
urged de-escalation of the confrontation on all sides, but
supported Uribe,s call for legislation to fix the problem.
It said the SC,s ruling was appropriate for legal norms, but
did not reflect the current reality of a country at war. El

Tiempo further warned the ruling places the demobilization
process at grave risk. The GOC has posted its proposed bill
on the Presidential website, soliciting public comment, and
is expected to formally present the bill to Congress on
August 8.
Drucker

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