By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – According to the association of judicial employees in Colombia, 287 Colombian judicial officials have been assassinated and hundreds more were subjected to violence and intimidation over the past 20 years. Within the past two decades, 750 judiciary officers have been threatened, including 220 in the last four years, 42 officials have been kidnapped, 39 are missing, 39 more have been forced into exile and 31 were forced to relocate.
On March 22, 2011, the most recent murder of Judge Gloria Constanza Gaona prompted the National Association of Employees of the Judicial Branch to hold a public demonstration in the nation’s capital. Over 41,000 judicial workers attended the demonstration, which was held on March 25 at the Paloquemao Judicial Complex in downtown Bogota. Judiciary officers hung black banners from buildings as a sign of mourning along with displaying images of 160 victims in the square of the complex.
Judge Gaona was presiding over a case involving three murdered siblings in which Colombian army members are the primary suspects. Judge Gaona was shot and killed on her way to a municipal court. According to reports, the family of the murdered children have received many death threats and will enter a protection and relocation program.
Nelson Cantillo, president of the National Association of Employees of the Judicial Branch, said “if we take into account that 287 homicides of judicial employees have been committed in the last 20 years, that gives us an average of one murder per month. These are outrageous figures, figures that may not move the government but they move us, which is why we called this day of protest.”
Last week, the Supreme Judicial Council of Colombia called being a judge in the country a “high risk” job. According to Supreme Judicial Council President Hernando Torres, Colombian judges “are very concerned that in the past five years six judges have been murdered. Being a judge is becoming a high risk profession.”
For more information, please see:
Colombia Reports – One Judicial Official Murdered Every Month in Colombia – 26 March 2011
Latin American Herald Tribune – More than 1 Judicial Official Killed Every Month in Colombia – 26 March 2011
Colombia Reports – Colombia Judges at “high risk”: Court – 23 March 2011