Carmelo Agámez is the Technical Secretary of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) chapter in Sucre. He has been detained since November 2008 on charges of conspiring to commit a crime with the same paramilitary groups he has dedicated his life to denouncing. The persecution against Agámez was included in a 2009 report by Human Rights First, In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, which documented for the first time the extensive use of malicious criminal investigations and arbitrary detention to silence human rights activists. You can also hear Carmelo’s story as told by his daughter Sandra Agámez in The Case of Carmelo Agámez, by Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
The case against Agámez has been marked by a series of inconsistencies and violations, which both a court and the Prosecutor General of Colombia have publicly recognized. Due process was lacking even before his detention when his house was raided by police on November 13th 2008. Agámez voluntarily went to the Sincelejo Prosecutor’s office two days after the raid, when he was detained and held in the custody of the Judicial and Investigative Police (SIJIN) without being informed of the charges against him. He has been detained since. He was initially detained with the very paramilitaries he had consistently denounced.
The basis for the conspiracy charge relies on the uncorroborated testimony from two discredited witnesses alleging that Agámez participated in a paramilitary meeting on an unspecified date. Neither of the witnesses is impartial: one was subsequently detained after Agámez and MOVICE publicly exposed his alleged links to paramilitaries, while Agámez was involved in the arrest of the second witness’ brother and cousin. Another witness recanted her testimony explaining that the prosecutor had induced her to falsely impugn Agámez.
In 2006, Agámez was included in a paramilitary “death list” and he has received numerous paramilitary death threats. On November 8 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) awarded Agámez and others from MOVICE, protective measures, recognizing the risks he faces as a result of his human rights advocacy.
Case Reassigned to Bogotá as Prosecutor is Investigated for Corruption
On May 13 2009, after six months of detention, a Sincelejo Court found that the prosecutor breached Agámez’s due process and defense rights by failing to inform him promptly of the charges or evidence against him. On July 8 2009, Colombia’s Prosecutor General issued a resolution citing the lack of an impartial investigation against Agámez, and opened a criminal investigation of Sucre prosecutor Rodolfo Martínez Mendoza for alleged corruption in connection with his baseless prosecution of Agámez. The resolution also transferred the investigation to a new prosecutor in Bogotá.
In reassigning the prosecutor by way of a formal resolution, the Prosecutor General repeatedly cited Human Rights First’s concerns about the lack of impartiality in the investigation against Agámez.
Case Taken to Trial in Spite of Acknowledged Violations
On November 4th 2009, after approximately one year in prison without trial, the 28th antiterrorism prosecutor in Bogotá issued a resolution formally bringing to trial the specious investigation against Agámez. The decision ignored the pronouncements by the Prosecutor General and the Sincelejo Court that Agámez’ due process rights had been violated, and failed to offer any additional evidence against Agámez. Agámez appealed the decision to take the case to trial but is still awaiting a decision from the Prosecutor General.
Human Rights First urges the Prosecutor General to immediately drop the charges against Agámez and issue a resolution to delegate a unit of his office to coordinate the review of all investigations against Colombian human rights defenders, which would immediately close all specious cases.
Human Rights First Materials
- HRF Petition to Colombia Prosecutor General on behalf of Agámez (5/10/2010)
- HRF Petition to State Department on behalf of Agámez
- Andrew Hudson blog on The Hufftington Post (4/27/2010)
- HRF Petition to State Department to Enforce Conditions on US Aid to Colombia (4/26/2010)
- HRF Blog on The Hill by Andrew Hudson (11/18/2009)
- HRF Press Release in response to resolution bringing the case to trial (11/10/2009)
- Christian Science Monitor article on Agámez (10/21/2009)
- HRF Press Release on Prosecutor General’s Resolution to reassign the case and order a criminal investigation of previous prosecutor (7/14/2009)
- HRF Letter asking for reassignment of the case, in Spanish (6/30/2009)
- LA Times article about Agámez (4/2/2009)
- HRF Petition to Colombian Prosecutor General (12/2/2008)