Press Release for the General Public

Viernes 18 de noviembre de 2011, por Prensa - Colectivo

The José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) has decided to state the following with respect to the information on the alleged acts revealed yesterday in the press in relation to a “Justice and Peace” hearing on the Mapiripán Massacre:

1. Within the framework of its work in defense of human rights, CCAJAR has provided national and international legal representation for five groups of individuals identified as family members of the victims of extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and forced displacement from July 15 to 20, 1997, which is known as the Mapiripán Massacre. These victims also include Ms. Mariela Contreras, and her family, who was recognized as a victim by the Colombian justice system after giving statements before the Prosecutor General’s Office.

2. Our work before the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, which resulted in a judgment against the Colombian State in September 2005, was based on the victims’ statements and the decisions issued by criminal, disciplinary and contentious-administrative courts in Colombia. On March 4, 2005, the Colombian State accepted these statements and decisions when it acknowledged its international responsibility for the Mapiripán Massacre in the following terms:

“[...] based on the decisions issued by the domestic judicial and disciplinary authorities and due to the facts that took place in the municipality of Mapiripán between July 15 and 20, 1997, [...] it publicly and explicitly states the following: [...] 2. It acknowledges its international responsibility for violation of Articles 4(1), 5(1) and [5](2), and 7 (1) and [7](2) of the American Convention on Human Rights […].”

3. In its decision, the Inter-American Court considered that “[t]he methodology followed in executing the massacre and destroying the bodies of the victims, together with the terror spread among the surviving inhabitants of Mapiripán to cause their displacement, have obstructed full identification of the victims of the massacre, despite the fact that there is certainty that a large number of individuals were tortured and murdered during those days in July 1997.” (Paragraph 96.47)

4. In view of this partial indetermination, the Inter-American Court established the obligation of fully identifying the victims, extending this duty to individuals mentioned as possible victims who were only known by nicknames. The Court reiterated that it was:

“[…] indispensable for the State, for purposes of reparation, to individually identify the victims who were executed and made to disappear, as well as their next of kin. […] The State must complete said tasks, as well any others that may be necessary, for which it must resort to all possible technical and scientific means, taking into account pertinent provisions regarding this matter, such as those set forth in the United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.” (Paragraph 305)

5. In effect, the number of victims mentioned in the Colombian decisions and established as the tentative number by the Inter-American Court is based on testimony from a plurality of victims and the admission made at the time by paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño Gil. It must be indicated that in this case paramilitary member Gilberto Cuellar also admitted to his participation in these acts and claimed that more than twenty people were murdered. The Judge in Mapiripán, Leonardo Cortés, who witnessed these acts, testified that there were several dozen victims.

In accordance with the judgment issued by Inter-American Court (paragraph 96.49), the National Human Rights Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office stated that:

“[…] after the Mapiripán Massacre was carried out [it was] Carlos Castaño Gil himself who, before the media and as a “victory report” state[d] that 49 individuals were eliminated in the paramilitary incursion in Mapiripán, making it possible to tentatively establish an estimate of the number of victims, a statement that was supported by that of doctor Leonardo Iván Cortés Novoa who asserted that approximately 26 individuals were killed and missing, together with the intelligence reports by members of the security forces who were carrying out covert operations in the area, stating that there were approximately 30, in addition to what has been asserted by paramilitary José Pastor Gaitán Ávila who says that he counted 23 persons murdered. This allows us to conclude that there was a large number of victims, no less than twenty.”

6. Based on the international decision and the Official Monitoring Mechanism, established in this judgment, CCAJAR has insisted on the full identification of the victims, an obligation and attribute exclusively corresponding to the Prosecutor General’s Office, which has not been fully satisfied, as indicated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

7. In cases of grave human rights violations, it should be remembered that the obligation to investigate corresponds to the State and not the victims or their legal representatives.

8. The lawyers from CCAJAR have always acted in good faith and we believe —and will continue to believe— in the good faith of the victims. Consequently, in this case, we have provided legal representation for those who claimed to be affected by the Mapiripán Massacre, provided voluntary statements before a notary public and, given the circumstances within which the acts took place, were consistent with what had been legally established and the different narratives on what occurred.

9. If one or several of the claimants requested to be recognized as victims without actually being so, this must be established by the corresponding judicial authority, which will determine the respective criminal responsibility. CCAJAR is completely available to the judicial authorities for the clarification of these acts recently published in the mass media.

10. The acts known as the “Mapiripán Massacre” represent a grave human rights violation, due to their nature, the alleged actors, the cruelty with which they were committed, and the ensuing terror, not only in Mapiripán, but also throughout the country. CCAJAR insists it is the State’s obligation to fully clarify these acts, establish all of the relevant criminal responsibilities, fully identify the totality of the victims, and make suitable reparations.


Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

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