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 ABYA YALA 
ABYA YALA / The Hidden Tragedy of the Colombian Prisons
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 02/07/2011
Original: La "tragedia oculta" de las prisiones colombianas
Translations available: Italiano 

The Hidden Tragedy of the Colombian Prisons

Sergio Ferrari

Translated by  Supriyo Chatterjee সুপ্রিয় চট্টোপাধ্যায়

 

More than 7,000 political prisoners pack the jails of Colombia. They live, in many cases, in a terrible situation. This is how it was reported by the Colombia lawyer, Ramiro Orjuela, during his stay in Switzerland as part of a continental tour.

University professor and lawyer of political detainees, Orjuela coordinates the defence, among others, of the Swedish-Colombian journalist Joaquin Pérez Becerra, whose detention and rapid extradition from Caracas to Bogotá in the last week of April was widely reported in the media.

Colombian lawyer Ramiro Orjuela

“The situation of those detained for political causes or for conscience is a tragedy hidden by the major communication media in my country,” Orjuela underscored during his recent stop in Berne. The Colombian lawyer visited Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain in the second half of June, meeting political personalities, the expatriate Colombian community, European parliamentarians in Brussels as also functionaries of international organisations and well-known entities such as the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

‘The only case in Latin America’

The number of political prisoners and their conditions of detention “describe one of the worst situations in Latin America and even in the whole world,” the human rights defender emphasised. Many of them are peasants, workers, students, trade unionists, social leaders or participants. Nevertheless, the state in order to punish them, “accuses them of being guerrillas. In my country, any opposition voice is criminalised, in particular if they belong to the social movements,” he asserted.

The conditions of detention in many of the penitentiaries, according to Orjuela, worsen the situation of the “thousands of young people, women, men and the elderly who have to put up with it”. And the list of humiliations, according to the lawyer, is long. It all starts with the obstacles and complex mechanisms to complicate the judicial process. “In Colombia, paying false witnesses or using false proof is regular occurrence, as in the emblematic case of David Ravelo, human rights leader of Magdalena Medio (a sub region in the department of Antioquia), first accused as a FARC guerrilla. Freed 27 months later, he was detained once more, this time using as pretext testimonies of former paramilitaries.”

Continuing with his reflections, Orjuela illustrated other abusive conditions which provide a terrible tone to the prisons: the inhuman everyday regime; the displacement of the detainees thousands of kilometres from their original place of residence; the impossibility of having visits from their families owing to the distance and the precarious economic conditions of many of the families of the detained…
 

 

Location of Valledupar, Colombia

Sinister Valledupar

Valledupar prison, César department, Colombia

“It is case, for example, of Valledupar prison, in the department of César, where hundreds of prisoners have been grouped from far-away regions, of up to a thousand kilometres or more, which makes it almost impossible to exercise in reality the right to visit,” he explained. The situation in which the detainees live in these penitentiaries was recently denounced by prestigious international organisations.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), with its headquarters in Geneva, published a letter sent last May to the country’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, pointing out “the serious concern for the deplorable conditions of detention and personal integrity of the prisoners” of Valledupar.

Prisoners' protest at Valledupar prison

In the letter/document, OMCT demanded the executive’s intervention in taking immediate measures to “guarantee the security, the physical and psychological integrity” of the detainees… and to overcome “the current conditions of detention, which can be listed as inhuman and constituting cruel and degrading treatment… the restrictions on drinking water having been used as punishment against the detainees”.

The letter, sent on May 18, affirmed “… for close to 15 days, there is total lack of supply of drinking water in the prison, located in a region of hot weather with maximum temperatures of more than 35° C”. The OMCT document denounced “… violent beatings with sticks, punches and kicks… in addition to attacks with teargas launched against the cells of some of the detainees during sleep time”.
 

 

The case of Pérez Becerra

The Swedish journalist of Colombian origin, Joaquín Pérez Becerra, directed till the end of the Nineties the alternative agency ANNCOL (New Colombian News Agency), with its headquarters in Sweden. ANNCOL is accused by the authorities of the South American country of being part of the international front of the guerrillas, which the news agency has denied repeatedly.

On April 23, on landing at Caracas proceeding from Stockholm, Pérez Becerra was detained at the airport itself, held incommunicado and extradited in less than 48 hours to Bogotá, where he remains imprisoned.

Illegal action of the Venezuelan authorites who, violating the laws of that country and international conventions, extradited Pérez Becerra to Colombia.

“Unfortunately, his legal situation has been bogged down given the interference of the Executive in the judicial branch, especially with the prosecutor. The government has said that Pérez Becerra is a FARC commandant,” explained Ramiro Orjuela.

At the base of the accusation is the supposed data found in the computer of the guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes. “Nevertheless, in other judicial processes the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice has rejected the value of these proof,” considering them illegal for the way in which these were obtained, said the defence lawyer.

“Judicially, the imprisonment of my defendant is weak… But anything can happen in Colombia. Witnesses can be paid to create new accusations. Other proof can be obtained from no one knows where. I’m convinced that the prosecutor will manoeuvre to impede real justice and the liberty of the Swedish journalist,” he emphasised.

“It is a complex situation, “given that there are is no judicial basis for the detention and it is an eminently political case. It is the result of an illegal action of the Venezuelan authorities who violated the laws of that country and international conventions in extraditing Pérez Becerra to Colombia,” Orjuela concluded. 





Courtesy of Argenpress.info
Source: http://www.argenpress.info/2011/06/la-tragedia-oculta-de-las-prisiones.html
Publication date of original article: 27/06/2011
URL of this page: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=5293

 

Tags: Colombian PrisonsLatin AmericaColombiaRamiro OrjuelaValleduparJuan Manuel SantosPérez BecerraANNCOLNew Colombian News AgencyAbya YalaPolitical prisonersHuman Rights
 

 
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