Date Issued: December 2, 2008
UPDATE: In January,Agamez was moved to a safer part of the prison where he is being held, away from the paramilitary members he helped put in jail. Furthermore, the Colombian Inspector General accepted HRF’s request to appoint a Judicial Inspector to review the investigation and promised that the Inspector would “search for the truth” and uphold Agamez’s “fundamental rights”. We hope that the appointment of the Inspector is the first step in closing the specious criminal investigation against Agamez.
Colombian human rights activist Carmelo Agamez has been detained for the past two weeks. A prosecutor in Sucre, northern Colombia, has charged him with belonging to a paramilitary group, and he is now locked up with the very paramilitary leaders he has consistently denounced.
Agamez does not belong to any armed group. In fact, for years paramilitaries have threatened to kill him because of his human rights advocacy against them. He has, however, condemned corruption by local government authorities.
Agamez is in considerable danger. Take action now to urge the Colombian Attorney General to:
- Move Agamez to a different prison where he is not kept with paramilitary members;
- Immediately review and close the criminal investigation against him.
This is not the first time that prosecutors in this part of Colombia have used criminal charges to harass and intimidate human rights defenders who have criticized local officials. In 2007, Ivan Cepeda, the spokesperson for the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), denounced paramilitary links between the then-Mayor of Sincelejo, Jorge Blanco. A prosecutor later investigated Cepeda for criminal libel and slander. In July 2007, Members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to the Colombian Attorney General regarding the criminal charges filed against Cepeda.
Read the letter: /wp-content/uploads/pdf/07808-hrd-ivan-dear-colleague.pdf
The two cases may be related: Carmelo Agamez, Technical Secretary of MOVICE’s Sucre chapter, organized the hearing at which Cepeda criticized the mayor, and Mayor Blanco’s wife is now a main witness in the criminal investigation of Agamez.
Dr. Mario Hernan Iguaran Arana
Fiscal General de la Nacion
Diagonal 22-B #52-01
Dear Attorney General:
I am writing to express my concern about the detention of Carmelo Agamez. I urge you to immediately move him from his current prison location and to close the criminal investigation against him.
Agamez is Technical Secretary of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) section in Sucre department. On November 8, 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) awarded Agamez, and others from MOVICE, protective measures, recognizing the risks he faces as a result of his human rights advocacy. He has exposed alleged links between local public officials and paramilitaries and urged the prosecution of paramilitary leaders in the region.
On November 13, 2008, five men in plainclothes, who identified themselves as police, raided Agamez’s house. Only Agamez’s wife was home at the time. I understand that the men failed to produce an arrest or search warrant. Two days later, on November 15, 2008, Agamez voluntarily visited the Sincelejo Prosecutor’s office, where he was detained and held in the custody of the Judicial and Investigative Police (SIJIN). He was subsequently moved to La Vega prison in Sincelejo, where he remains. I understand that he is being held in Patio Two of that prison with the paramilitary leaders and public officials who were detained partly on the basis of his human rights advocacy. The Sincelejo prosecutor has charged him with conspiracy to commit a crime with paramilitary forces, alleging that he participated in a paramilitary meeting in 2002.
I am concerned by the failure to abide by due process standards. Agamez was reportedly not notified of the charges against him for several days. Moreover, the only evidence the prosecutor allegedly has is uncorroborated testimony from witnesses. One of those witnesses is not impartial, being the wife of Jorge Blanco, a mayor recently charged with corruption after Agamez and MOVICE publicly exposed his links to paramilitaries. I fear that his arrest may be related to his human rights advocacy and his public denunciations of official corruption. Shortly before his detention Agamez had criticized the current Mayor of San Onofre, Edgar Benito Revollo, of corruption.
Agamez has devoted his career to exposing human rights violation by paramilitaries. In 2006 he was included in a paramilitary “death list” and has received numerous paramilitary death threats. It is highly unlikely that he is part of a paramilitary group while at the same time seeking the prosecution of paramilitary leaders.
I urge you to immediately move Agamez from Patio Two at La Vega prison, where he is being held with the very paramilitary members he has criticized. I also urge you to order your human rights unit in Bogota to immediately review the investigation and detention of Agamez. The review should analyze whether the criminal investigation comports with the due process standards contained in the Colombian Procedural Code and international law.
I also urge the Inspector General to appoint a Judicial Inspector to review the investigation and, unless there is sufficient, corroborated evidence, to recommend Agamez’s release.
Thank you for your attention in this urgent matter. I will continue to closely monitor this situation.
Dr. Carlos Franco
Presidente del Programa de Derechos Humanos
Calle 7 No 6 – 54
Fiscalia Segunda Especializada
Carrera 19 No 19-47
Edificio La Concepción
Edgardo Maya Villazon
Procurador General de la Nación,
Carrera 5 # 15-80,
Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz
Defensoría del Pueblo
Calle 55 No 10-32