21 Years Later, Former Colombian Spy Chief Charged In Killing

21 Years Later, Former Colombian Spy Chief Charged In Killing

By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

Former Colombian Spy Chief Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez (photo courtesy of www.elcolombiano.com)
Former Colombian Spy Chief Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez (photo courtesy of www.elcolombiano.com)

 BOGOTA, Colombia – Former head of Colombia’s DAS security agency and retired military general Miguel Maza Marquez was arrested for the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.  The arrest comes days after Colombian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for the 73-year-old Maza Marquez.  Maza Marquez is officially charged with murder for terrorist purposes and a crime against humanity.

Maza Marquez had beens arrested last December in connection with the assassination; however, he was released in April after the prosecution failed to meet the indictment deadline. Prosecutors began to revive the case in September.

Daniel Suarez, Maza Marquez’ attorney, told Caracol Radio that Maza Marquez “has no interest in evading justice” and would “immediately” turn himself in following the indictment.  Maza Marquez has steadfastly asserted his innocence.

The DAS domestic security agency that Maza Marquez was in charge of provides bodyguards for politicians, human rights activists and others, including Galan.  Prosecutors in the case claim that Maza Marquez made changes to Galan’s security detail mere hours before the candidate was killed at a campaign rally in the Bogota suburb of Soacha on August 18, 1989.

Former officials with the demobilized AUC paramilitary federation have said in sworn statements that Maza Marquez played a central role in Galan’s murder.  According to the prosecution, additional evidence “points to the participation of several state servants who, like the retired general, learned in advance of the attack being planned against the presidential candidate and, instead of averting it, aided in its commission.”

Galan’s presidential campaign was a crusade against Pablo Escobar and other drug lords who essentially controlled Colombia through violence, killing hundreds of judges, journalists and police in a bid to avoid extradition.  It is theorized that the assassination was carried out primarily due to instigation from politicians and drug kingpins.

Galan was the favorite to win the election and would have likely been elected President had it not been for his untimely death.

For more information, please see:

www.poliblogger.com – Arrest Warrant Issued for ex-DAS Chief in Galan Assassination – 27 November 2010

Latin American Herald Tribune – Colombia Charges Former Spy Chief in 1989 Assassination – 26 November 2010

Washington Post – Colombian ex-Police Chief Charged in Killing – 25 November 2010

Forces Seize Gang-Held Slum–Bystanders Pay A Price

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Police took the gang-run slum by force. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
Police took the gang-run slum by force. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil—After a week of combat between drug gangs and Brazilian security forces, over 45 people have been left dead.  Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva has lauded the operation as the beginning of the end for Rio’s notorious drug gangs, stating confidently:  “We will win this war.”

The military operation against the gangs took place in the favela (shantytown or slum) called Complexo do Alemao in Rio.  The favela had been a virtual stronghold for drug gangs, with little police presence for decades.  The mission culminated on Sunday when approximately 2,600 armed officers and paratroopers swarmed on the favela.  Armored vehicles and helicopters were in tow.

Officers seized weapons and drugs, especially marijuana and cocaine.  They also arrested over 40 suspected gang members, including important leaders.  Eliseu de Souza was one of these, found guilty of the 2002 torture and killing of journalist Tim Lopes.  Officers canvassed the favela’s 13 neighborhoods and tracked suspects into the sewers.

This week’s series of violent clashes are part of Brazil’s plan to make Rio safer for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.  Yet many human rights defenders are critical, accusing the nation of being too tough in the approach.

“The police so far this week in operations in other communities have killed over 50 people, including in a tragic accident a 14-year-old girl,” Patrick Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty International, said.  “And one has to remember that this community has a long history of these very militarized campaigns by the police, and in 2007 the police did a huge operation, stormed the community and shot dead 19 people, and then left.”

Many innocent residents of the favela were caught in crossfire during the police operations.  Health officials have reported that the age range of those wounded was from 2 to 81.

Jose Pereira, a 33-year-old bricklayer, took a bullet in the leg.  “They fight,” he said, “but we’re the ones who suffer, the residents.  How am I going to work now [with my injury]?  I have three children.  How are they going to eat?”

Complexo do Alemao has a population of about 65,000 who inhabit only 18,000 dwellings—mostly tin-roofed brick shacks.  Fifteen percent of these residents live without any access to proper sewage.  Since the violence began last week, electricity has been lost and many residents have lost the food they kept in their refrigerators.  When asked about the police’s capture of the favela, one mother said, “No, it’s not worth it.  Before, we lived our lives, [the gangs] lived theirs.”

Despite the problems that police operations have created in the favela, many are hopeful that the drug traffickers are on their way out and that a more peaceful time is to come.

“I hope this will be the rebirth of this community,” a grandmother expressed after the violence ceased.  “Things had to change.  We have to hope.”

For more information, please see:

BBC-Brazil’s Lula hails Rio police operation-29 November 2010

Washington Post-Rio slum dwellers caught in battle to pacify city-29 November 2010

Reuters-Analysis: Rio raids a critical step for Brazil’s economy-29 November 2010


By Erica Laster                                                                                                                          Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – While abortion continues to be illegal in Nicaragua, the use of 9 year olds to advocate for its use in the country is not. According to reports by Nicaraguan police, more than two thirds of the countries rape victims from 1998-2008 had not reached the age of 17.  Various tactics and measures used as solutions to resulting sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies result in stigmatization and further trauma.

Current Nicaraguan President Ortegas stepdaughter accused him of rape in 1998.  Authorities never prosecuted him.  Photo courtesy of BBC News.
Current Nicaraguan President Ortega's stepdaughter accused him of rape in 1998. Authorities never prosecuted him. Photo courtesy of BBC News.

Amnesty reported that one mother attempted to file a complaint regarding her daughter’s rape by her step father.  Despite her report, authorities charged her with complicity and placed her in jail for 12 years for her failure to report the crime earlier.

Authorities never took action to arrest the step father.

Esther Major, a Nicaraguan research for Amnesty recognizes that “Young vitimcs of rape and sexual abuse demand that their right to be free from sexual violence is protected by the Nicaraguan government, and that they are supported so they can overcome the physical and psychological trauma caused by such acts of violence.”

Nicaragua’s abortion law demands that rape victims who become pregnant face imprisonment if they refuse to have the baby.    Many other victims are pressured into delivering the baby or giving the baby up for adoption.  Of the  14,000 cases reported in ten of the last 12 years, the main perpetrators were those in positions of power or relatives of the victims.

The result of inaction taken by authorities is silence from the victims.

Daniel Ortega, the current President of Nicaragua,  was accused of rape by his step-daughter in 1998.  Zoilamerica Narvaez reported the abuse to the authorities, indicating that Ortega molested her from the age of 11 to the age of 22.

As a member of parliament, Ortega maintained immunity from prosecution and the case was never brought to trial.

For More Information Please Visit:

Free Republic – Pregnant 9 year Old Victim Being Used To Push Abortion Legalization – 20 April 2010

Amnesty International – Nicaragua Must Put An End To Rape And Sexual Abuse Of Girls – 25 November 2010

BBC News – Nicaragua Accused Of Failing Rape Victims – 24 November 2010

North Korea Fires at South, killing civilians

North Korea fired artillery shells onto the South Korean island, killing two civilians (Photo Courtesy of the New York Times)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – On Tuesday November 23, North Korea attacked a populated South Korean island near its border, killing two marines and two civilians while injuring dozens of people. Such a provocation was “one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War,” according to Ban Ki moon, the current secretary general at the United nations.

North fired dozens of shells at a South Korean island called Yeonpyeong, which marked the first time since the war that North struck at land-based targets. The rockets destroyed homes and workplaces of civilians who were later placed under temporary asylum homes in the mainland Korea. President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea promised to return a “stern” and “strenuous retaliation” if any further provocation ensued.

The attacked island is situated in a disputed area where a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, was sunk in March, killing 46 sailors. An international investigative report blamed North Korea for torpedoing the naval vessel, an accusation which North still denies.

Although skirmishes between the two Koreas are not uncommon, their tense relations have worsened in the recent months especially after the Cheonan incident. To make matters worse, just last week, an American nuclear scientist who visited the North said he had been shown a secret and modern nuclear enrichment facility.

According to Andrei Lankov, a North Korean expert and an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, “they [North Korea] want to direct attention to themselves, to say: ‘Look we are here, we are dangerous and we cannot just be ignored,’” The U.S. position had been to engage in talks when there was a prospect of democratization in the North, he said. “Now the chances for democratization are virtually zero, so they have nothing to talk about.”

Many analysts view the continuing provocation by the North as their desperate plea to capture world’s attention as the totalitarian regime goes through the transfer of power from Kim Jong-il to his 3rd son, Kim Jong-un. Such a hard-line stance, they believe, will enhance the military credentials of Kim Jong-un and garner a unified support for his rising to the new leadership. Others link it to the need for food aid, which has been largely denied by South Korea ever since President Lee took office two years ago, and strangled by international and United States sanctions.

The attack on Yeonpyeong came as 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called Safeguarding the Nation. This exercise, which had been announced well in advance to the North, has been criticized by Pyongyang as “simulating an invasion of the North” and “a means to provoke a war.”

Many regard China as a key player in easing the tension between two Koreas. China, arguably North Korea’s sole trading partner and political ally, tries to prevent a collapse of the North Korean regime, which has potential to send a flood of refugees over its border. Whether this latest exchange of artilleries will escalate into a full-blown confrontation remains to be seen.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Crisis Status’ in South Korea After North Shells Island – 23 November 2010

Bloomberg Businessweek – N. Korea Attack on South Kills Two, Sets Homes Ablaze – 23 November 2010

Bloomberg – UN Chief Ban Ki-moon Condemns North Korea’s Attack on South – 23 November 2010

The Wall Street Journal – China Faces Pivotal Test – 24 November 2010

Rebels Storm Town in Central African Republic

By Daniel M. Austin
Impunity Watch Reporter,  Africa
Central African Republic Soldiers. (Photo Courtesy of News 352).
Central African Republic Soldiers. (Photo Courtesy of News 352).

BANGUI, Central African Republic – On November 24, rebels from the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) stormed a village in northeastern Central African Republic (C.A.R.) killing at least four government soldiers and causing widespread panic. The town of Birao, which is located near the border of Chad and Sudan, is presently under the CPJP’s control. CPJP rebels took control of the town after upending government forces that had been stationed in Birao to protect the population. Reports from the region claim the C.A.R. military is planning a counterattack to retake control of the town.

The CPJP rebels have seized control of the military’s command post in Birao as well as the local airport. It has been reported that many of the residents have fled the town and are hiding in the bush. C.A.R. military officials claim that government soldiers decided to withdraw from the town instead of standing and fighting the CPJP rebels because there was a high risk of civilian casualties. It is suspected that Chadian rebels who have fled from the Darfur region of Sudan assisted the CPJP with this assault. Rebel attacks frequently occur in this region of Africa. Specifically, this area of C.A.R. has been plagued by violence including inter-ethnic hostilities, thievery, and cross border attacks.

The rebel attack on Birao has drawn condemnation from world leaders including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. The United Nations is particularly concerned with this development because only two weeks ago control of Birao was handed over to C.A.R. government soldiers from United Nations peacekeepers. The peacekeeping forces are a part of the UN Mission to Central African Republic and Chad, also known as MINURCAT. MINURCAT was setup in 2007 to help protect civilians in both CAR and Chad and to provide humanitarian relief when both countries were experiencing instability.

The handover of Birao came after an agreement was reached between C.A.R., Chad, and the United Nations in May 2010. During this meeting, the government of Chad pushed to have the MINURCAT mission wind down and for government forces from Chad and C.A.R. to step up to and take over security operations. The MINURCAT mission is scheduled to end on December 31, 2010.

For more information, please see:

AFP — C.African rebels control key town after deadly assault – 25 November 2010

BBC Africa — Central African Republic rebels seize Birao town – 26 November 2010

Spero News — Ban deplores rebel attack in north-east Central African Republic – 27 November 2010

Voice of America — Rebels Control Central African Republic Town – 25 November 2010