of this matter be
initiated so that it may be examined by the Commission in due
received a copy of the complaint, on February 7, 1991, the
Government of Colombia sent the Commission the following reply,
which was then forwarded to the petitioners on February 12 of that
On behalf of the Government of Colombia, I have the honor to
address Your Excellency with reference to your note of January 15,
1991, concerning case 10,581, relative to Mr. Alirio de Jesús
The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation reported that
the 35th Ambulatory Criminal Examining Court of Bogotá is hearing
the case and thus far has taken a number of steps, such as receiving
testimony, making special visits to garrisons and military posts,
all in an effort to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Alirio de Jesús
The Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, through the
Special Office for the Public Ministry, designated a special agent
to the 35th Criminal Examining Court, whose mission was to monitor
this process constantly.
The National Director of Criminal Investigation, Dr. Carlos
Eduardo Mejía, ordered the National Deputy Director, Dr. Víctor
Navarro, to direct and keep abreast of the criminal investigation.
On October 2, 1990, the Examining Judge in question ordered
that the preliminary proceedings be sent to the Technical Corps of
the Court Police, a specialized investigative unit that is
continuing the investigation.
Moreover, the Office of Special Investigations of the Office
of the Attorney General of the Nation, in furtherance of the
purposes for which it was established, has become a new
investigative tool that acts swiftly to investigate complaints of
violations of the basic civil rights of individuals under the
jurisdiction of the Colombian State, reported that it is pursuing an
investigation into the alleged disappearance of Mr. Pedraza Becerra.
It further reported that it has taken numerous steps, one of
which is to send staff to all those places where Dr. Pedraza is said
to have been seen. Investigators
from that unit have also been present for a number of exhumations
and have been sent out on field missions.
During some of those missions, members of the Political
Prisoners Solidarity Committee, a non-government agency, have been
Dr. Pablo Elías González, Chief of the Office of Special
Investigations, informed this Ministry that statements were taken
from all of the policemen working in and around the scene of the
events; thus far, however, there are no clues as to the identity of
the authors of the alleged disappearance of Mr. Alirio Pedraza.
The Chief of the Office of Special Investigations also
reported that his office is continuing to make every effort to find
Mr.Pedraza, and to discover and punish the authors of this alleged
Furthermore, the Office of the Presidential Advisor for
Defense of Human Rights has been kept abreast of all of the
investigations and has published announcements on television and
radio, requesting the cooperation of the public in the form of
information on the whereabouts of Dr. Pedraza.
Nevertheless, thus far there is no evidence to indicate that
State agents participated in the commission of the alleged
disappearance of Dr. Alirio Pedraza.
In keeping with its obligation to investigate, effectively
and seriously, all human rights abuses, the Colombian State has
devised and established special rules, which in turn have spawned
new specialized agencies such as the Office of Special
Investigations of the Office of the Attorney General, whose mission
is to contend with the present crisis, without ever overstepping the
boundaries established by the Constitution and the law.
Colombia is confident that the measures that are set in
motion day after day will help counteract any violation of the
fundamental rights of persons living within its territory.
I would like to reiterate the national Government's
commitment to report on developments in the investigations being
conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and by the Technical
Corps of the Judicial Police.
As Your Excellency can appreciate, the remedies under
domestic law are fully underway.
February 12, 1991, the Government of Colombia sent the Commission
the following additional information, which was forwarded to the
petitioners on February 19:
On behalf of the Government of Colombia, I have the honor to
address Your Excellency to report developments in the investigation
into case 10.581, concerning Mr. Alirio de Jesús Pedraza Becerra.
The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation reported that
through a memorandum dated February 11 of this year, the attorney in
charge of evaluating the case file received from the 35th Criminal
Examining Court had, through a decision dated February 1, 1991,
ordered that the investigation continue, calling for seven pieces of
In that same decision of February 1, 1991, the case was sent
to the Office of the Technical Corps of the Criminal Investigation
Judicial Police so that the seven pieces of evidence might be taken.
Moreover, the Deputy Director of the Technical Corps of
Judicial Police of the Department of Cundinamarca was asked to
appoint two investigative attorneys to arrange for the seven pieces
of evidence to be taken.
As Your Excellency can appreciate, both from our note of
February 7 and from this note as well, the Office of the Attorney
General of the Nation and the National Bureau of Criminal
Investigation are continuing to investigate the alleged
disappearance of Dr. Pedraza.
The Colombian State has set in motion all of the remedies
under domestic law, in order to clarify the facts and punish those
allegedly responsible for them.
I would like to remind Your Excellency of the National
Government's pledge to report developments in the proceedings
August 15, 1991, the Colombian Government sent still more
information on developments in the investigation into the murder of
Alirio Pedraza, in response to a new request for information sent by
the Commission on July 10 of that year:
In connection with case No. 10,581, concerning Mr. Alirio de
Jesús Pedraza Becerra, the Preliminary Investigation Unit of Santa
Fé de Bogotá reported that it had ordered the taking of evidence,
which is done by agents attached to the Investigating Unit of the
Technical Corps of the Judiciary Police.
On February 21, 1991, the designated agents submitted the
report on their findings and the evaluation of those findings, but
it is still impossible to identify the authors of the alleged forced
disappearance of Mr. Pedraza Becerra, or his whereabouts.
The National Human Rights Unit has requested special
assistance from the Office of the Deputy Director of the Technical
Corps of Judicial Police, in order to step up the investigation.
Thus, the Colombian Government, in furtherance of its legal
duty to investigate events that violate the fundamental rights of
Colombian residents, is using every means possible to discover
evidence, in the hope of clarifying the circumstances under which
Mr. Alirio de Jesús Pedraza Becerra was deprived of his freedom and
September 3, 1991, the petitioner forwarded the following
PROOF OF THE FACTS:
It will be recalled that on July 4, 1990, at around 10 p.m.,
at the La Campiña shopping center located in the Suba neighborhood
of the city of Bogotá, Alirio de Jesús Pedraza Becerra, an
attorney and defender of human rights, was intercepted by a number
of armed men traveling in three vehicles.
They apprehended him in a violent and arbitrary way, and
forced him into one of their vehicles.
In response to the assault, Mr. Pedraza begun to yell his
name, asking help from all those present. There were two policemen
on duty at the shopping center at that time; the abductors
identified themselves as members of a State security agency; the
policemen did not prevent Mr. Pedraza from being beaten and abducted
and did not ask why he was being taken, even though they could have
checked the facts using the portable radio they were carrying.
Mr. Víctor Hugo Martínez Jáuregui, a guard at that
shopping center, was a witness to the entire incident. He gave the
following testimony in the Office of Special Investigations of the
Office of the Attorney General of the Nation on July 11, 1990:
STATEMENT BY AN EYEWITNESS
What happened happened fifteen minutes after a bomb exploded
in downtown Bogotá; I heard about it on a radio that was playing in
the pharmacy; two cars came up, one a dark Mazda and the other a
Trooper with a white cab, and another car that parked near the exit
from the shopping center's parking lot.
The men in the Mazda got out, and the light of the Mazda
stayed on; the two who came in the Trooper also got out and the
driver of the Trooper went into the bakery.
I was in front of the Trooper, which was parked outside the
bakery; when the man inside got out, they left the doors open. It was then that I heard the noise; I immediately started
walking in the direction of the noise, and that was when I saw a man
in a yellow jacket; they had him pinned up against the wall which, I
believe, is the back of Noah's Ark, a pet shop.
There were four people against him and they were using dirty
words. I heard them
tell the man in the yellow jacket that this was a search, to get up
against the wall; I went toward him to help him, because I thought
they were robbing him and I got as far as the shoe store, there by
Noah's Ark. At that
point I was about to take out my revolver, but the driver of the
Trooper told me that they were the judicial Police and not to do
anything. Then he took
out a black card and showed me.
It read it said POLICIA JUDICIAL, and it had the flag on it.
Let the record show that the individual making the statement
then makes a drawing of the identification card shown to him by the
Judicial Police ....
He continues: The one with the moustache stayed with me for
another five minutes; he was afraid and was looking all around.
At that point, he called out to his friend and said
"stay here with him," and that was when the little black
guy was with me; the order was given like a command; his voice was
heavy. The young black
boy came to me immediately, until finally they took the man in the
yellow jacket away and put him in the Mazda. That was when he
started to scream that he was, I don't know. The one with the curly
hair slammed the Mazda door shut and started the car immediately. He
told the two policemen who were standing by the telephone booth
nothing happened, they were with the Judicial Police" ....
indicate whether any member of the NATIONAL POLICE was present as
these events transpired.
they were; there were two policemen in uniform, with boots and hats
with green visers; one of them had a radio that was bigger than the
one used in the Office of the Attorney General (Let the record show
that the individual making the statement saw it when it was put
He continues with his statement:
The radio that I saw was longer; they were tall young men;
they had revolvers and they were aware of everything that was
happening, like the couple I mentioned earlier and the policemen
whom the abductors told to relax, that nothing had happened, that
they were from the Judicial Police. All three cars started and the Trooper headed out by way of
Telecom, in other words against the traffic.
say where the two policemen were located and how they reacted to the
policemen were there, near the long distance telephones; all they
did was watch what was happening at the shopping center; but they
did not take any action. They
came from the direction of the pool rooms, on the avenue, in other
words from the south; as they were passing by they stopped to look
at what was going on, and they stayed there watching until the cars
left. I don't know
where they went from there, because I went into the bakery shop to
speak with the owner.
We hope that the Colombian Government has sent you the full
text of the statement made by Mr. Martínez Jáuregui, the guard; in
all events, we are sending it to the Commission today, under
This statement, taken just seven days after the disappearance
occurred, is highly credible inasmuch as it is spontaneous and its
author has no reason to want to hurt anyone who may be involved in
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COLOMBIAN STATE
A number of elements constitute convincing evidence that the
forced disappearance of Alirio de Jesús Pedraza was the work of
agents of the State.
On the one hand, according to the statement made by Mrs.
Virginia Vargas Pirabán, wife of Mr. Pedraza, which is on record
with the Commission, he had been the target of harassment and his
life and the lives of the members of his family had been threatened
because at the time of his disappearance, the attorney Pedraza was
representing a number of people in the city of Cali (Valle) who had
been tortured; the investigations conducted had shown that several
members of the national army were implicated in those crimes of
Mr. Pedraza had been the target of constant persecution on
the part of military and State police agencies, as his wife stated
in the aforementioned declaration.
Everything points to the fact that Alirio de Jesús Pedraza's
commitment to defending human rights and his progressive position
vis-a-vis the serious crisis that Colombian society has experienced
and is still experiencing, was enough to put his life and personal
safety in jeopardy, as had happened with so many other human rights
defenders in the past (such as Dr. Héctor Abad Gómez, Martín
Calderón Jurado, Valentín Basto Calderón, among many others; some
of these are cases the Commission is well aware of).
The Judge of the 20th Superior Court of Bogotá, in
processing the petition of Habeas Corpus, found that the First Army
Brigade had issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Pedraza, an arrest
warrant that is still in effect; this is very compromising for the
State, since it is both odd and illegal for a warrant of that nature
to be issued against a civilian, since on March 5, 1987, the Supreme
Court declared the state of siege that gave the military
jurisdiction over civilians to be unconstitutional.
As if that were not enough, the commandant of the police
station in the area where the incident occurred refused to reveal
the identity of the two policemen who were on duty at the shopping
center that night. The other policemen attached to that station also refused
when they were called upon to make depositions in the Office of
Special Investigations of the Office of the Attorney General of the
Nation. This was a
clear case of gross omission calculated to prevent justice from
being done. As a result
those responsible have not been identified.
It is incomprehensible that thus far Colombia has been unable
to identify the two policemen who were on duty in the area of Dr.
Pedraza's apartment on July 4, 1990.
The fact that the Colombian Government has been unable to
establish who those policemen were and that the Office of the
Director General of National Police has been unable to come up with
any type of results in this regard, after more than a year since the
disappearance, grievously compromises the responsibility of the
Colombian State, both because of its inability to guarantee the
rights of individuals and because the will to punish those
responsible and to redress the violations committed against the
victims is lacking.
OF REMEDIES UNDER DOMESTIC LAW
Three actions and proceedings have been conducted in
connection with this case:
Habeas Corpus. On
September 20, 1990, Mrs. Virginia Vargas filed a petition of habeas
corpus with the judge of the 20th Superior Court of Bogotá, who
ordered that the petition be processed and sent various
communications to administrative and military authorities and to
State police agencies to obtain information on the whereabouts of
Mr. Pedraza. Having
received replies stating that there was no information available on
the whereabouts of Pedraza Becerra, the judge of the 20th Superior
Court of Bogotá decided, in a ruling of October 22, 1990, to
refrain from issuing any decision on the merits of this case,
thereby concluding the proceedings thereon.
In accordance with the provisions of Article 46.1 of the
American Convention on Human Rights, for the Commission to admit a
petition, the remedies under domestic law must first be exhausted;
this is precisely what happened in the instant case, since the
petition of habeas corpus was filed, processed and decided and, as
the Inter‑American Court of Human Rights stated when it ruled
on the Godínez Cruz case: "... habeas corpus would be the
normal means of finding a person presumably detained by the
authorities, of ascertaining whether he is legally detained and,
given the case, of obtaining his liberty." (Paragraph 68).
taken by the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation.
The measures being taken by the Office of Special
Investigations of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation
have not produced any positive results, even though more than a year
has passed without news of the whereabouts of Mr. Alirio Pedraza.
It should be noted here that the policemen who were derelict
in their duty when they allowed Mr. Pedraza to be beaten and seized
in the manner described above, in an episode that ultimately turned
out to be a crime against humanity, as forced disappearance is
classified, have never even been sanctioned.
This internal disciplinary procedure cannot be construed as
one of the remedies that, by their nature, must be exhausted before
turning to the Inter-American Commission, since it is simply an
internal control mechanism used by the State to monitor and sanction
civil servants when, by either action or omission, they violate
judge of the 35th Criminal Examining Court of Bogotá conducted some
preliminary criminal proceedings, but under no circumstances can
those proceedings be considered a criminal proceeding per se, but
rather measures that are part of a sixty‑day inquiry to find
those responsible; after those sixty days the judge conducting these
measures must refer the proceedings to the Unit of the Technical
Corps of the Judicial Police so that it may continue inquiries into
the case (Article 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
For this reason, on October 8, 1990, the judge of the 35th
Criminal Examining Court sent the proceedings to the Technical Corps
of the Judicial Police, where they are at the present time; thus
far, no measure has been taken that has contributed significantly to
the investigation's progress.
To illustrate how this case is going, we opted to send the
Commission a descriptive narration of the various measures taken by
the Colombian State in connection with this forced disappearance,
though this is not to imply that the latter, too, must be exhausted
which, as said before, are not remedies under domestic law that have
to be exhausted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
can admit a case of forced disappearance, as happened with Dr.
Alirio de Jesús Pedraza Becerra.
For all these reasons, we would respectfully request that the
Commission adopt a resolution declaring the Colombian State
responsible for the forced disappearance of Mr. Alirio de Jesús
Pedraza Becerra inasmuch as his right to life, upheld in Article 4
of the American Convention, his right to humane treatment, upheld in
Article 5, his right to personal liberty, upheld in Article 7 and
his right to a fair trial, upheld in Article 8 of the Convention,
have been violated.
its 80º session the Commission adopted Report Nº 33/91, which was
referred to the Government of Colombia so that the latter might
whatever observations it deemed pertinent within three months of the
date of transmission.
the question of admissibility:
Commission is competent to examine the subject matter of the case
inasmuch as it involves violations of the rights stipulated in the
American Convention on Human Rights, Article 4, concerning the right
to life, Article 7, the right to personal liberty, and Article 25,
the right to judicial protection, as provided in Article 44 of that
Convention, to which Colombia is a State Party;
petition satisfies the formal requirements for admissibility
contained in the American Convention on Human Rights and in the
Regulations of the Inter‑American Commission on Human Rights;
In the instant case it is more than obvious that the
petitioners have been unable to secure effective protection from the
domestic agencies having jurisdiction, which in spite of the
irrefutable evidence placed at their disposal have failed to
formally charge the police officers, either directly or indirectly
responsible, so that whether or not the remedies under domestic law
have been exhausted, they cannot be invoked on behalf of the
Government of Colombia to suspend the processing of this case with
this Commission, in view of the unjustified delay in the internal
investigation of this case; moreover, the fact that the proceedings
have been with the Technical Corp of the Judicial Police since
October 1990 forces one to conclude that the investigation, in
accordance with the provisions of Article 347, 347 bis and 348 of
the Colombian Code of Criminal Procedure, has been suspended by the
present petition is not pending settlement in any other procedure
under an international organization and is not a duplication of an
earlier petition already examined by the Commission.
2. On the
investigations conducted by the Government of Colombia:
investigations that the Colombian Government authorities have
conducted through the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation,
the Office of the Special Prosecutor for the Public Ministry, the
National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Office of the
Chief of the DAS, have compiled information, such as the information
that appears in this report, that is more than sufficient to charge
members of the Colombian police forces as the responsible parties in
other aspects related to the processing of this case:
facts prompting the petition are not such that they can be resolved
through recourse to the friendly settlement procedure provided for
in Article 48.1.f of the Convention and Article 45 of the
Regulations of the Commission, a procedure not requested by either
of the parties;
the friendly settlement procedure does not apply, the Commission has
no other alternative but to abide by the provisions of Article 50.1
of the Convention, and draw up its report and findings on the matter
submitted to it for consideration;
In prosecuting the instant case all legal and regulatory
procedures established in the Convention and in the Commission's
regulations have been exhausted.
the course of the instant case, it has been established--and the
Colombian Government has not denied it--that agents of the Colombian
police took part in the abduction and subsequent disappearance of
Alirio Pedraza Becerra;
abduction and subsequent disappearance of Mr. Alirio Pedraza is a
In Resolution 666 (XIII‑0/83) and Resolution 742
(XIV‑0/84) the General Assembly of the Organization of
American States declared that "forced disappearance of persons
in the Americas is an affront to the conscience of the hemisphere
and constitutes a crime against humanity",
the Government of Colombia requested reconsideration of the
Commission's Report Nº 33/91 on January 16, 1992, during the period
the Government of Colombia, while it made various observations
regarding particular factual matters contained in the Commission's
reports, did not provide any new evidence which would lead the
Commission to modify its report.
That there are no new considerations presented in the
Commission's files that would lead it to any other conclusion.
THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
In the exercise of its authority,
that the Colombian Government has failed to comply with its
obligation to respect and guarantee Articles 4 (the right to life),
5 (the right to humane treatment), 7 (the right to personal liberty)
and 25 (on judicial protection), in connection with Article 1.1,
upheld in the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Colombia
is a State Party, in respect to the abduction and subsequent
disappearance of Mr. Alirio de Jesús Pedraza Becerra.
that Colombia must pay the victim's next‑of‑kin
to the Government of Colombia that it continue and enlarge the
investigation into the events denounced.
the Colombian Government to guarantee the safety of and grant any
necessary protection to the eyewitnesses to the events who, risking
their own lives, have provided their invaluable and courageous
cooperation in an effort to shed light on the events.
the publication of this report in the Annual Report to the General
Assembly, pursuant to Article 48 of the Commission's Regulations and
Article 53.1 of the Convention, inasmuch as the Government of
Colombia did not adopt measures to correct the situation denounced,
within the time period stipulated in Report Nº 33/91.
Commission member Dr. Alvaro Tirado Mejia abstained from
participating in the consideration and voting on this report.