Investigations into former President Álvaro Uribe to be reopened, Supreme Court rules

By Arjun Harindranath February 20, 2018

Álvaro Uribe

Newly uncovered recordings of former President Álvaro Uribe have led the Colombian Supreme Court to reopen investigations against him relating to alleged witness-tampering and perverting the course of justice.

The Court had initially been investigating Congressman Iván Cepeda for jail visits to former United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (UAC) paramilitary members, but they established that no attempt had been made to manipulate the witnesses. On the contrary, the court concluded that, based on recordings of Uribe, there was sufficient evidence to investigate the former president for attempting to procure false testimonies against his rival Cepeda.

Uribe continues to deny the allegations made against him. “I have never spoken to the witnesses,” Uribe said in a statement through his lawyer. “The Court should publish the calls with the lawyer who tapped my phones so that the people can determine if I committed any crime.”

Uribe went on to say later: “In my case, there is no justice but only persecution.”

The Supreme Court’s 220-page decision follows a similar decision by a lower Court in Antioquia which reopened the investigation into two massacres that were allegedly carried out on Uribe’s authorisation.

The massacres at La Granja and El Aro, both within the town of Itanguo, were brutal acts carried out by paramilitaries and have yet to be ruled on definitively by the courts in Colombia. Their failure to bring the perpetrators to justice has been seen by many to be one of the darker chapters in Colombia’s history.

The Supreme Court’s decision also comes hot on the heels of greater judicial interest in the “false positives” case, whereby recruiters were involved in finding young men, dressing them in guerrilla garb before they were tortured, killed and counted as enemy combatants. Most recently, recruiter Pedro Antonio Gámez was found culpable for the deaths of five youth, including two minors, after they too were counted as “false positives”. Gámez was subsequently sentenced to 39 years in prison for his role in their killings.

Álvaro Uribe is a figure that continues to polarise Colombian politics and this division is specifically marked in an election year. The Supreme Court’s decision has, as a result, brought out many strong reactions from Colombian politicians.

Centro Democrático candidate Iván Duque tweeted shortly after reports of the decision began circulating that, “President Santos is the only Colombian that doesn’t think that the FARC wants to imprison [Álvaro Uribe] or know that the FARC has publicly stated that the JEP should imprison Uribe.#IBelieveInUribe”

Senator Claudia Lopez, for Alianza Verde, tweeted in kind, saying that “it’s impossible to be the puppet of Uribe and not give into silly falsities, lies and hysterics like this. Another good man lost in Uribe’s hands. What a disgrace this subject has been for Colombia.”

Some politicians questioned the timing of the investigation, saying that the resurfaced allegations are politically motivated rather than a drive for justice. Senator Ernesto Macías claimed that “every four years the ‘hacks’ intensify their attacks against Álvaro Uribe Vélez on the eve of the elections.”

Uribe’s lawyer Jaime Granados has, in the meantime, indicated that Uribe will be appealing the Supreme Court’s decision.