Unjustly-Detained Colombian Activist Denied Appeal, Faces Trial

Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the decision of Colombia’s Deputy Prosecutor General to deny the request for appeal in the case of detained human rights defender, Carmelo Agamez. Agamez was the Technical Secretary for the Movement for Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE) in the Sucre department when he was detained in November 2008 and accused of consorting with paramilitaries. Agamez has no such ties; he has devoted his career to documenting human rights violations and exposing alleged links between local public officials and paramilitaries

In November 2009, after nearly a year of detention, the 28th antiterrorism prosecutor in Bogota issued a resolution to bring Agamez’s case to trial, despite decisions by a court and the Prosecutor General that Agamez’ due process rights had been violated in this case and other evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Agamez filed for appeal shortly thereafter and received nothing but silence from the Colombian government until his request for appeal was denied last week.

“Agamez’s detention is part of a broader trend for the Colombian government to silence and intimidate human rights defenders through baseless accusations and charges of involvement in political violence,” said Tad Stahnke, Director of Program and Policy at Human Rights First. “We hope that the new administration of President Santos will protect and support human rights defenders and will not subject them to this kind of persecution.”

30% of U.S. Foreign Operations assistance sent to Colombia requires the State Department to certify that Colombia is complying with several human rights conditions, including protection of the rights of human rights defenders. Agamez’s continuing detention calls into question the extent to which Colombia is in compliance with these conditions.

The baseless prosecution of Agamez was included in a recent report by Human Rights First, In the Dock and Under the Gun: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. Human Rights First is campaigning for an end to the practice of baseless prosecutions of human rights defenders and for the release of all wrongfully detained non-violent activists. Agamez is the last person featured in that report who is still in prison. An excerpt from that report is below:

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. On November 13, 2008, five men in plainclothes, who identified themselves as police, raided Agamez’s house. On November15, 2008, he was arrested and jailed. Sincelejo prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to commit a crime with paramilitary forces, alleging that he participated in a paramilitary meeting in 2002. He was held in SIJIN custody for five days, and is currently detained at La Vega prison. The initial raid against Agamez allegedly took place without a warrant, and Agamez was reportedly not notified of the charges against him for several days. Agamez’s arrest happened shortly after he made a series of public denunciations of official corruption. The only evidence the prosecutor allegedly had is the uncorroborated testimony of two witnesses, one of whom was the wife of a mayor recently charged with corruption after MOVICE organized a public hearing. Agamez has received many threats from paramilitaries and appeared on a paramilitary “death list” in 2006.

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