UN urges Colombian government to protect judge who issued landmark ruling
A United Nations human rights commissioner in Colombia Saturday called on the government to protect a judge who issued a "landmark" ruling that stirred up nationwide controversy, Xinhua reported.
Judge Maria Stella Jara on Wednesday sentenced retired colonel Alfonso Plazas to 30 years in prison for the disappearance of 11 civilians in 1985 when he led government troops to retake the supreme court from guerrillas of the Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19).
The sentence, seen as a landmark by human rights groups, generated controversy in the country. Leaders of the armed forces said Plazas should not be held responsible for the incident. But families of the victims and the judges supported the verdict.
"We urge the Government of Colombia to abide by and respect the ruling. We are also concerned about the safety of judge Maria Stella Jara, we hope we can strengthen and take measures to continue to ensure his safety," said Christian Salazar, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe asked on Friday to protect the peace process signed with M-19 guerrilla group in 1990. He also ordered a special legislation to protect the military who backed Plazas.
Salazar said the United Nations is not opposed to Uribe's initiative, if it is clear that human rights cases are processed by ordinary courts.
"We believe it is important to note that human rights do not constitute an obstacle to the security forces. The full respect of human rights is the foundation of the legitimacy of the armed forces," he added.
Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in the past week for judge Jara and his son who had received death threats from suspected illegal armed groups.
Plaza is in hospital for poor health. The judge requested that the former soldier should be detained in a maximum security prison.
The M-19, a left-wing guerrilla group, occupied the Palace of Justice and took judges hostages on Nov. 6, 1985. The government troops led by Plaza launched an assault to regain control of the building.
The day-long battle between soldiers and rebels caused the deaths of 11 judges of the Supreme Court, 35 guerrillas and 52 others, while 11 were declared missing.
The M-19 demobilized and signed a peace agreement with the government in 1990. Its members were granted amnesty. Some of them entered politics and were elected to high positions.