Ex-President Uribe under House Arrest

The Supreme Court of Colombia has placed former  President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) under House Arrest.. Uribe Vélez is currently a Senator in the Colombian Congress who is waiting to be tried for procedural fraud and witness tampering.

In 2012, Senator Uribe Vélez filed a complaint against  Senator Iván Cepeda for falsely linking him to right wing paramilitary death squads. The court closed the inquiry against Cepeda in 2018 finding that he had nothing to answer. The Special Investigation Chamber of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice then opened formal proceedings against Senator Uribe Vélez for procedural fraud and witness tampering.

The current Colombian President Duque, from the same party as Senator Uribe Velez, the Centro Democratico, stated “I am and will always be a defender of the honesty and the honorability of Álvaro Uribe Vélez… an exemplary public servant … [the Court} have not permitted him to remain free to defend himself with the presumption of innocence …” (unofficial translation)

Senator Iván Cepeda held an online press conference after the court’s ruling stating:

 …no one is above justice. Today something has changed in Colombia.

Unfortunately, the reaction of members of the Centro Democrático Party has been to defend Senator Uribe and attack the Justice System, rather than supporting due process and calling for a full investigation of the facts. The focus of members of the Centro Democrático on justice reform is not a new one, there have been three attempts to change the law in relation to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Threatening legal security for the FARC and therefore the peace process in Colombia.

We have accepted that the transitional justice measures that Colombia decided to adopt could, if properly implemented and applied, meet the objectives of accountability, availability of resources for victims, and the contribution to the deterrence of future crimes, as provided for in the Rome Statute. We have therefore supported the JEP as the key transitional justice mechanism adopted under the peace agreement.”

James Stewart, International Criminal Court deputy prosecutor

On Tuesday 4 August 2020 the Supreme Court Issued a Statement in which it announced that it had taken a unanimous decision on 3 August 2020 to adopt an order to place Senator Uribe Vélez under House Arrest:

“[t]he order was adopted based on a rigorous legal study on the procedural reality, which indicates possible risks of obstruction of justice, regarding the future collection of evidence of allegedly criminal acts involving both Senator Álvaro Uribe and representative Álvaro Hernán Prada.” Supreme Court Statement.

The Supreme Court is carrying on its investigations for witness tampering and procedural fraud and if convicted Uribe could spend seven to eight years in jail.

Senator Uribe Vélez will carry out the deprivation of liberty at his residence and from there he will be able to continue exercising his defense with all the guarantees of the right to due process.

After listening to his explanations and the practice of multiple tests, many of them requested by the defence, the measure restricting the freedom of Senator Uribe Vélez is based on a large amount of evidentiary material collected and analysed by the Special Chamber of Investigation. Said material is part of the summary reserve and includes testimonial evidence, judicial inspections, film records, recordings and telephone interceptions, which apparently indicate its alleged participation as a determiner of the crimes of bribery of witnesses in criminal proceedings and procedural fraud.

The behaviors imputed to Senator Uribe Vélez, for which the Court resolves his legal situation, were allegedly committed while he was serving as a congressman.

The Court issued this order based on Article 309 of the Colombian Code of Criminal Procedure: “it shall be understood that the imposition of the security measure is essential to avoid obstruction of justice, when there are serious and well-founded reasons that allow inferring that the accused may destroy, modify, direct, impede, conceal or falsify evidence; or it is considered that it will induce co-defendants, witnesses, experts or third parties to report falsely or behave in an unfair or reluctant manner; or when it prevents or hinders the performance of the proceedings or the work of the officials and other participants in the action “

Statement by the Supreme Colombian Court of Justice

Senator Uribe continues to declare his innocence of the allegations that he together with his brother Santiago Uribe created the extremely violent paramilitary group Bloque Metro.

The house arrest of Senator Alvaro Uribe in a witness tampering case has intensified the polarisation with protests on the streets in defence of Uribe on the one hand, and celebrations that the Court is progressing this alleged crime on the other, seeing it as proof of the independence of the judiciary. Unfortunately the attacks against the justice system by members of the Centro Democratico have intensified, with calls for justice reform. Proposals that could impact negatively on democracy in Colombia.