Ex-president to be investigated over charges of links to paramilitary activity in El Aro while he was governor of Antioquia in 1997
On October 6, Colombia’s Public Prosecutor’s Office requested that the Supreme Court of Justice open an investigation into the role of former president Álvaro Uribe in relation to a mass killing which occurred in 1997 in the small town of El Aro in the Antioquia region.
Uribe was governor of Antioquia at the time when the massacre occurred over a three-day period in 1997, when paramilitary group AUC — the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia — occupied the village of El Aro, supposedly to look for hostages taken by the FARC, according to Rutas del Conflicto.
The prosecutor asserts that during the occupation, 19 people were killed and many families were left displaced after the destruction of their homes.
Victims’ testified that armed men committed arson, raped women and randomly killed villagers.
Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre based the request on testimony given to an American court by former AUC head Diego Fernando Murillo, alias “Don Berna”, which directly links Uribe to the attack.
He specifically highlighted conversations from 1998 and 2008 with former AUC member Francisco Villalba which incriminated Uribe, before Villalba was killed in 2009.
Don Berna is currently serving prison time in the United States on narcotics charges.
In 2006, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ordered the government to pay reparations to victims, after concluding that government forces were involved in the El Aro massacre.
This is not the first time Uribe has been associated with this crime. In February a court in Medellín ordered an investigation into his alleged involvement in the massacre.
If the Supreme Court accepts, the next step would be to start a preliminary investigation, although the time frame is unclear.
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Uribe has denied all involvement in the massacre. He stated on social media sites that he was “accustomed to slander”, especially during times of political campaigning and that the latest investigation was an attempt by the government to exert political influence less than a month ahead of the polls opening. (October 25 will see nationwide elections.)
The call to investigate Uribe comes as peace talks between the FARC and the government reached an agreement on the theme of transitional justice in the event of a successful end to negotiations.
Montealegre told national news sources that Uribe could end up appearing before an eventual post-conflict transitional justice tribunal.