PRESS RELEASE – JUNE 10, 2009, Montreal -Canada.
FROM: Colombia Action and Solidarity Network (ASOCOLOM)
As Colombians living in Canada, we hereby express our indignation at the presence in Canada of the current President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who has been invited by the government of Canada. We consider this an affront to the defense and protection of Universal Human Rights, given that the majority of the Colombians that live in Canada had to forcibly flee Colombia in the recent past, displaced from our country as victims of violence, poverty and political persecution carried out by the Uribe government.
In view of this, we consider that the Canadian people, in recognition of its democratic tradition, especially in regards to the protection of human rights, cannot condone the presence of a president such as Mr. Uribe, who is directly responsible for crimes against humanity in Colombia, as follows:
1. For his direct link to the persecution and harassment of judicial due process in order to prevent the investigation and prosecution of his family members, and political supporters (Deputies and Senators) of his past presidential and re-election campaigns for their roles in the establishment, involvement and support of paramilitary groups and their complicity in crimes against humanity in Colombia. In view of this, Mr. Augusto Ibañez, the President of Colombia’s Supreme Court recently requested that the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Judicial Independence come to Colombia to act as a witness and guarantor of the independence of the judicial process in these legal proceedings;
2. For his involvement in maintaining and protecting his political allies and personal friends in their offical state capacities and government roles, while having full knowledge of their involvement in aiding and abetting crimes committed by paramilitary groups. One example is Jorge Noguera, ex-director of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), currently in prison and accused of being an accomplice to paramilitary groups, in the assassinations of trade union, civil society and leftist leaders. Uribe appointed Noguera as Ambassador to Italy, and was investigated for activities in that position by Colombia’s Attorney General. A similar example is Uribe’s political party colleague, personal friend, the ex-governor of Sucre Department, Mr. Salvador Arana, who was identified in the presence of Uribe by Eudaldo Diaz, mayor of El Roble Municipality, just before he was assassinated. A few days later, Uribe rewarded Arana by appointing him as Ambassador to Chile. Subsequently, following his arrest by Interpol, Arana was convicted for assassination, and aiding and abetting crimes by paramilitary groups, such as the Chengue Massacre;
3. For his direct family ties, through his cousin Mario Uribe and brother Santiago Uribe, in the planning of assassinations committed by paramilitary groups, such as the Aro Massacre in Antioquia Department. The material author and principal witness of this massacre, Enrique Villalba, was recently killed in Colombia. This also happened in the case of Mario Uribe, whose involvement in land robbery as its frontman was carried out through murders. These investigations are currently being brought to the National Attorney General, the highest level of judicial investigation;
4. For his direct responsibility as Commander in Chief of the Colombian Armed Forces in judicially-proven criminal offences, committed by high-level military officers, such as aiding and abetting of massacres and systematic civilian assassinations, such as the so-called “false positives” scandal;
5. For his direct responsibility in permitting the impunity, in Colombia, of paramilitary leaders for the crimes against humanity committed by them, by prioritizing their extradition to the USA for narco-trafficking , rather than standing trial in Colombia. (Investigative journalists have argued that Uribe has done this in order to avoid being implicated in their crimes, should they be brought to trial in Colombia);
6. For assuming a policy of indifference in the face of attacks by paramilitary groups that have refused to demobilize and that, according to their communiqués, now have the intention to take control of Colombia through a campaign of terror;
7. For the direct link of the Presidential Palace in ordering the wiretapping of telephone conversations between the Administrative Department of Security and judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, opposition politicians, trade unionists, civil society leaders and journalists, in order to continue and facilitate ongoing political persecution; and
8. For his direct responsibility in maintaining and pursuing a policy of war, wrongly called “democratic security”, directed primarily at peasant farmers, Afro-Colombian communities and indigenous peoples, which is incrementally adding to Colombia’s grave humanitarian crisis and conditions of absolute misery, as has been corroborated by recent reports of Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, and the Organization of American States.
In view of all of the above, we ask the community for the creation of a committee to verify the state of human rights in Colombia, comprised of members of Canadian and Colombian civil society, the trade union movement, politicians and well-known individuals before the end of 2009.
For the respect of human rights and the dignity of the Colombian people, we renounce President Uribe’s presence in Canada.