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Cablegate: Colombian Courts Take Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3521 3412302
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 072302Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1493
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003521

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/07
TAGS: PREL PGOV KJUS CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN COURTS TAKE TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

REF: A)BOGOTA 3491; B) BOGOTA 3375

CLASSIFIED BY: Brian A. Nichols, Deputy Chief of Mission; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) The Colombian courts handed down two positive decisions in
human rights cases, and a disappointing one in a public corruption
case. On December 2 the Supreme Court sentenced former Sucre
Department Governor and Ambassador to Chile Salvador Arana to 40
years in prison for his role in ordering the assassination of a
mayor by paramilitaries in 2003. At the time of his indictment
Arana resigned his ambassadorship and disappeared, but was later
apprehended by Colombian authorities in May 2008. The Court
notified the International Criminal Court (ICC) of its ruling to
demonstrate the effectiveness of the Colombian justice system. The
sentence is the longest handed down by the Supreme Court in the
"parapolitica" scandal -- in which dozens of politicians are
accused of collaborating with paramilitaries. It is especially
noteworthy because the magistrates' stiff sentence punished the
intellectual author of the crime as if he had physically carried it
out. Separately, on November 26 a Bogota court sentenced former
Army General Jaime HumbertoUscategui to 40 years for the 1997
Mapiripan, Meta, massacre (REF A) during which 40 unarmed peasants
were killed by United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
paramilitaries deploying from Uscategui's Colombian Army base.
Although Uscategui plans to appeal, his 40-year sentence remains a
landmark as the most severe punishment given to an army general.

2. (U) In an expected yet troubling development, on December 3 the
Supreme Court absolved former Navy Admiral Gabriel ArangoBacci of
all charges related to collaboration with narco-traffickers (REF
B). Furthermore, the Court ordered an investigation of former
Defense Minister Juan Santos, Navy Commander Admiral Guillermo
Barrera, and Captain Jorge Tovar for leaking proof of Arango's
supposed guilt to the press before referring the case to legal
authorities. Barrera read a statement December 4 asserting that
the Navy complied with all obligations to inform the competent
authorities of Arango's alleged wrongdoings. Ambassador Brownfield
told reporters December 4 the United States is awaiting an
explanation of who leaked sensitive U.S. navigation charts to drug
traffickers attempting to evade U.S. interdiction patrols.

3. (C) COMMENT: Supreme Court contacts have told us they intend to
issue judgments in at least 80 additional cases prior to December
15 in an effort to clear their desks prior to the holiday season.
BROWNFIELD

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