April 11, 2019
Representatives from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Colombian Caravana (UK) have returned to Medellin to continue observing the trial of Santiago Uribe Vélez, the brother of former President and current Senator, Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Santiago Uribe is accused of heading a paramilitary group in North Antioquia during the early 1990s that became known as the “12 Apostles”. He also is charged with the murder of bus driver, Camilo Barrientos Durán, in 1994. During its existence, the 12 Apostles sought to carry out what many have referred to as ‘social cleansing’ – eliminating those considered ‘undesirable’ to the group such as sex workers and drug addicts. In addition, the group targeted members and supporters of guerrilla groups. The group is considered to be responsible for over 500 murders and disappearances during this period.
International observation missions were organised following evidence of threats and intimidation to lawyers and witnesses in the case. Daniel Prado, lawyer to the victims of the case, has been granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Medida cautelar N° 261-16 of 20 November 2017), which stated that “the rights to life and personal integrity of Mr. Daniel Ernesto Prado Albarracín are at grave risk.” We understand that, although the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección) provided him with a car as a security measure, it does not have reinforced windows which means that it does not provide adequate protection.
The mission has been informed about serious attempts having been made to undermine the work of the prosecution. It is reported that in November 2017 a plan was uncovered to murder Olwan de Jésus Agudelo Betancurt, one of the witnesses in the case.