Source: Colombia Informa / The Dawn News / November 7, 2017
The First Circuit Criminal Judge of Cartagena, Freddy Machado, ordered the immediate liberty of the social leaders of Sur de Bolívar that have been unjustly detained for defending human rights and their territory. Milena Quiroz, Isidro Alarcón, Nubia Gómez, José David Jaime Lemus, Manuel Francisco Zabaleta Centeno and Félix Muñoz were all freed.
“What we have now is a decision of a Judge with base in a legal process before the Supreme Court of Justice. This court in the Second Instance, ordered that all of our fundamental rights be protected that had been violated. So finally, I will return to Arenal, that is my hometown,” explained the leader Milena Quiroz.
To make this decision, Judge Machado based his arguments on the fact that the investigation that had been advanced against the leaders of Sur de Bolívar was uncertain, it was not a comprehensive investigation, and instead the case was very similar to the many other cases of legal “false positives”.
March 22 of this year, in the early morning, the Criminal Investigation Sectional -Sijin- captured 12 social leaders in the Sur de Bolívar region under the accusation that they supposedly pertain to the National Liberation Army -ELN.
To be a social leader is not a crime
Later that day, when they were prosecuted by the Judge of Control of Guarantees in Cartagena, the Prosecutor argued that the real cause of these detentions was because (for example) Milena Quiroz, one of the detained, should be locked up because she promoted and organized marches “of high danger to the order of the state, to the order of security.”
The reality is that the Prosecutor forgot to mention and analyse that in Colombia the right to protest is guaranteed by Article 37 in the Political Constitution.
From this moment, social organizations and members of Colombian and international civil society called for justice for these 12 leaders and human rights defenders detained in Sur de Bolívar.
This whole operation of the Prosecutor of Cartagena was just one of the examples of persecution of the social movement and criminalization of protest, that everyday is growing in this South american nation.
Quiroz, interviewed the morning she was released by Colombia Informa, explains that for the leaders who were detained, they have suffered “a very big moral, physical and psychological damage; on family and organizational levels. This damage is irreparable. Although the time will pass, it will be very difficult to heal from something like this. Justice should be applied to all of the corrupt but to the people who should’ve helped defend our rights.”
“Liberty is a right that all of us long for. I feel a lot of happiness, joy and excitement because there was justice. This whole time allowed us to show to the authorities that administer justice that you can not accuse people just because they think someone does something or that other people say that they do certain things. There should be more tact and more ethics of the authorities before putting things in public ridicule and before accusing good people.”
“These eight months have been a space to reflect about the role that we play as leaders in organizational processes, the risk that we run and the very few guarantees that we have to do this type of work with the communities.”
“I think, that going forward, the Government and those who do this type of accusations should have much more tact because this does not build peace. What it does is that the people who defend the communities, we turn into victims of the conflict and of those who love the war.”