1993 forced disappearance of the union leader Pedro Julio Movilla Galarcio reaches the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

1993 forced disappearance of the union leader Pedro Julio Movilla Galarcio reaches the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the case of the forced disappearance of Pedro Julio Movilla Galarcio, which occured on May 13, 1993, in the city of Bogotá.

These facts are found in three simultaneous contexts: the application of the doctrine of the Internal Enemy in state intelligence and counter-guerilla manuals, the political violence directed against alternative and leftist sectors, and the generalized context of forced disappearances in Colombia.

“We want them to tell us who gave the order to disappear Pedro Julio Movilla Galarcio”: Candelaria Vergara, companion of the union leader.

The admission of the Pedro Julio Movilla case to the IACHR Court reaffirms the existence of a context of forced disappearances in Colombia and the obligations of the State regarding these facts. It also gives a more detailed account of the use of profiling and persecution in application of the doctrine of the Internal Enemy, which was already recognized by the Inter-American Court in the case Isaza Uribe v. Colombia. It opens the debate on public access to information kept confidential as a result of intelligence activities, as well as access to manuals, regulations and military doctrine applied for the violation of human rights, even more so in a post-conflict and national reconciliation context.

Pedro Julio Movilla Galarcio was a political and union leader. He advised and actively participated in various trade union organizations such as the Popular Workers’ Committee in Córdoba and the Trade Union Federation of Workers of Antioquia. He was also an active member of the Colombian Communist – Marxist Leninist Party. Due to this activity, he was persecuted and profiled by the security forces and intelligence agencies such as the National Army, the F2, and the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police and Intelligence -currently DIJIN-. The various attacks against him forced him to move from Montería to Medellín and then to Bogotá in order to protect himself and his family.

On May 13, 1993, Pedro Julio Movilla was taking his daughter Jenny to the John F. Kennedy School in the city of Bogotá at around 8:00 a.m. After dropping her off, state agents reportedly began an operation in which he was detained and disappeared. At the same time, and as a distraction mechanism, around 9:00 a.m., a subject dressed similarly to Pedro Julio, in an apparent state of drunkenness and firing shots into the air, appeared in the vicinity of the school. This person was arrested and taken to the Ricaurte police station. The detainee was later identified as Pedro Pabón. Witnesses claim to have seen the detention of a person dressed in a brown jacket, without being certain whether it was Pedro Julio or Mr. Pabón.

During the criminal and disciplinary investigations, it was possible to corroborate the existence of a profiling and follow-up against the union leader through reports made by the 13th Brigade of the National Army, as well as a criminal proceeding against him in Criminal Court 51. It was also possible to identify that the firearm that was used by Mr. Pabón in the confusing events that occurred on the same day of Pedro Julio’s arrest was assigned to National Police Lieutenant Ramiro Bohórquez Neuta. The then Lieutenant alleged that he had reported his weapon as lost in 1992, but this was disproved. In addition, it was identified that Mr. Pablo was an informant for the Dijín and the F-2.

28 years after the forced disappearance occurred, and despite the various actions taken by the family of Pedro Julio Movilla and his representatives, his whereabouts have still not been found, nor have the persons responsible for his forced disappearance been punished. So much so that the process is still in the preliminary stage and the only person formally linked to the criminal process is Mr. Pedro Pabón.

In the international process, the IACHR considered the existence and incidence of the three contexts in the case to be proven, and determined that the State of Colombia was responsible for the forced disappearance of Pedro Julio Movilla, which was motivated by the application of the doctrine of the Internal Enemy, the profiling and persecution against him. Among other facts, the IACHR assessed the classification by State agents as a “criminal trainer”, “EPL/dissident” or “member of an armed group”, as well as the monitoring and collection of information on his displacement and that of his family both in Bogotá and in other cities. Likewise, the Commission determined that the violation of the right to freedom of association due to the persecution and eventual disappearance was motivated by his membership in leftist trade unions and political organizations.

In its Merits Report, the Commission also established that the State was responsible for the violation of judicial guarantees and judicial protection because it did not carry out all activities diligently to locate the whereabouts of Pedro Julio or to identify those responsible for his disappearance. Likewise, the investigation was not advanced following the selective nature of the disappearance or revealing the motives behind the profiling. On the other hand, the investigation has been extended for 25 years in an unjustified manner, and questions such as Mr. Pabón’s participation or Lieutenant Bohórquez’s firearm in the vicinity of the place of the events remain unexplained. Finally, the IACHR established that the State was responsible for the violation of the right to personal integrity of Pedro Julio’s family.

In its recommendations, the OAS human rights body stipulated that Colombia must find the fate or whereabouts of Pedro Julio Movilla, make full reparations to his family members and investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for his disappearance. In addition, as measures of non-repetition, it recommended the repeal of all military regulations and manuals in which the doctrine of the internal enemy is applied, the issuance of an order to all instances of the security forces on the inapplicability of regulations and manuals incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights, and ensure the discontinuance of practices framed in the notion of the Internal Enemy.

For Pedro Julio Movilla’s family, this is a particularly important step in the search for him. Candelaria Vergara, Pedro Julio’s wife, has denounced from the beginning that the State is responsible for the profiling, persecution and forced disappearance of the social leader. The fact that the IACHR Court is hearing this case also opens the door to justice after all the years of uncertainty, denial of what happened by the State and negligence in the investigations. A decision on the merits by the Inter-American Court also means a substantial contribution for the Colombian State to leave behind war doctrines and stigmatizing doctrines, as well as the persecution against alternative political sectors, and to strengthen the pillars of a healthy democracy that respects dissent and guarantees fundamental freedoms.

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