The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ratified in second instance the conviction against Julio César Ardila, former mayor of Barrancabermeja, as co-perpetrator of the the crimes of aggravated homicide and conspiracy to commit a criminal offense in the case of the murder of journalist José Emeterio Rivas, committed on April 6, 2003. This decision responds to an appeal by the defense, alleging violation of due process, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Interview with Eduardo Carreño Wilches, attorney in the case:
According to the testimony of a demobilized member of this paramilitary structure, Rayner Enrique Brokate Riveros, the convicted former mayor Julio César Ardila, together with Juan Pablo Ariza Castañeda, Abelardo Rueda Tobón and Fabio Pajón Lizcano, met with three paramilitary commanders and agreed on the sum of $150 million to kill the journalist.
The defense filed an appeal for review of the sentence due to a subsequent recantation by Brokate, but the Court concluded that this testimony was not the only one on which the decision was based, and that, on the contrary, testimonies from other paramilitaries, including paramilitary commander Iván Roberto Duque, alias “Ernesto Báez”, and two women survivors who coincide in their testimony about the planning and execution of the events, are consistent in their testimony.
The events referred to in the final conviction took place on April 6, 2003 when journalist José Emeterio Rivas went to a farm located on the San Rafael plateau in the municipality of Barrancabermeja, where paramilitary members of the self-styled United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) were present. The journalist was accompanied by Edwin Ariel Gutiérrez, Oscar Camargo Serrano, Pablo César Montesinos, Gloria Elcy Nanclares, Yady Yolanda Hernández and Isabel Cristina Sánchez Bedoya.
The following day, the bodies of journalist José Emeterio Rivas and Pablo César Montesinos were found on the road from Barrancabermeja to Bucaramanga. Days later, the bodies of Edwin Ariel Gutiérrez, Oscar Camargo Serrano and Gloria Elcy Nanclarez were also found with multiple gunshot wounds.
“The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court considered that the evidence was duly provided with all the formalities and guaranteeing the right of defense, both in the first and second instance,” emphasized victims’ attorney Eduardo Carreño Wilches, who recalled that the conviction originated in that “it was proven that the former mayor planned with other officials the execution of the journalist for all the denunciations he was making about the corruption involved in the delivery of public services and the undermining of the municipality’s patrimony, in alliance with paramilitary groups. There is no other way left for ex-mayor Ardila but to serve his sentence.”