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 ** COLOMBIA: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF **

pdf download - please click here
Summary of Findings -
please click here

 

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March 2004

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**Protest Colombian Vice President Santos Visit To Ireland**

March 23rd 2004
12.30pm Leinster House 
Kildare Street, Dublin

Trial Observers findings published

November 2003 - The Bring Them Home Campaign publish findings of International Observers to the Trial of martin, Jim and Niall (pdf download available above).  The booklet entitled Colombia: Judge for yourself, is also available for purchase by contacting the Campaign (details above).

'This process has been tainted from the outset.  There is no substance to the charges, and the lengths to which the U.S, Colombian and British governments have gone to subvert the defendants' rights clearly demonstrates that the purpose of this trial is not to establish the 'material truth' as to the allegations.  While the political pressure to convict is intense, the prosecutor's case is characterized by the utter absence of reliable, credible evidence.  Indeed, the reliance on fabricated forensic evidence and false testimony is in itself evidence that the training charges are without substance.'

Natalie Kabaskalian
Attorney at Law, New York

Australian Delegation act on behalf of The Three - please click here

Interview with Caitriona Ruane by Toni Solo - please click here

**Act For Justice**

North America - please click here
England & Ireland - please click here
Canada - please click here
European countries - please click here 
Australia - please click here
Asian countries - please click here
Central America - please click here
New Zealand - please click here

**Trial - Talking Points** - please click here 

The trial of Martin, Jim and Niall finally came to a close at the end of July 2003 - almost two years after their arrest.  For the first time, the men attended and addresses the court (read declarations below).  The trial has proven no case, yet during the week of summing-up, Colombian Military General Mora called publicly for a maximum sentence to be imposed.  The Bring Them Home Campaign and families of the men, are confident of a favourable outcome if Judge Acosta be given scope to rule solely on evidence produced, free from military or executive pressure.  Martin, Jim and Niall remain in La Modelo awaiting the outcome.

Declaration of Martin McCauley - Please click here

Declaration of Jim Monaghan - Please click here

Declaration of Niall Connolly - Please click here


Trial of three Irishmen Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan. Legal Summary -
Please click here
 

Trial Observers Findings

'Not only has the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof in establishing the charges against the defendants, but the untruth of every material fact and conclusion attested to by prosecution witnesses has been definitively established by credible defence evidence. 

During the week of 8-11 April 2003, witnesses for the defense testified.  Now that the defense case has largely been heard, it is more than apparent that there is no credible evidence against the three accused men.  In light of the irreconcilability of testimony offered by the prosecution and the defense, witness credibility and reliability are of central importance.  This report attempts to summarize most of the key points of the defense testimony.  This observer concludes that in light of defense witnesses’ testimony, the prosecution could at no time have maintained a good-faith belief that there was a case for the defendants to answer.  Accordingly, the observer concludes that the judicial process is tainted, and highlights some of the extraneous pressures that have affected, and continue to affect, the conduct of this case'. 

Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York June 2003
Updated Report>>>

'Based upon the uncontroverted testimony set forth above, it is quite clear to this observer that the three accused were not in Colombia during the times they were alleged to have been. If not present, they could not possibly have conducted the acts they are accused of. The evidence is persuasive, clear and convincing.

Whether the standard of proof is full absolute certainty or beyond a reasonable doubt, the case against them should fall. A verdict of guilty on the charges of training in illegal activities would be totally without foundation and a miscarriage of justice in any civilized modern system of jurisprudence. Such a verdict would clearly be suspect on the grounds of being politically motivated and would not withstand even the most superficial judicial scrutinization'.

Respectfully submitted, May 2, 2003.
New York
Stephen M. McCabe
Updated Report>>>

 

Trial Observers  Report (Interim Findings)
February/March 2003

Read Second Interim Report Mar '03>>>
Spanish Version>>>

First Interim Report Jan '03>>>
Spanish Version>>>

SELECTED CONCLUSIONS OF LEGAL OBSERVERS
March 24, 2003

'The defendants have been denied translators to communicate with their counsel, in contravention of the provisions of Article 8(2) of the American Convention on Human Rights'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York
March 24th 2003

'Colombian officials of the highest rank have repeatedly made highly inflammatory and prejudicial public statements that have been disseminated widely in the national and international press, thereby irreparably compromising the defendants' right to a trial by an impartial court'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York

'This observer was concerned that objections were sustained to questions put to extremely important witnesses for the prosecution on the basis that the question had been already asked and that the question was confusing the witness'.
Stephen M. McCabe,
Attorney At Law, Mineola, New York

'The right of an accused to cross-examine witnesses is a fundamental right in all criminal proceedings, and is enshrined, inter alia, in Article 8(2) of the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the glaring credibility problems of this witness's testimony, the defendants should have been given the widest latitude in conducting cross-examination. However, the court severely limited cross-examination'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York

'The heightened conflict in Colombia is making it extremely dangerous for anyone associated with this high profile case'.
Sean Crowe, TD

'The situation in Bogota is one of increasing tension, volatility and danger as evidenced by the car bomb in the capital which killed 37 people. The political and media references to the IRA as assisting FARC are creating and increasing atmosphere of hostility and intimidation towards Irish people including those resident in Bogota'.
Senator Mary White

'The witness was also asked questions and answered the same with words which he later admitted he did not know the meaning of. The evidence of the three witnesses for the prosecution has considerable flaws and inconsistencies. The evidence is such that it would not be accepted by any reasonable court as evidence of the truth'.
Shaun Kerrigan,
Sydney, Australia.

'The failure of the police to take any steps on February 7 (to protect the delegation) could be perceived by some as being acquiescence in and encouragement of the behaviour in question and as a threat by the government of Colombia to the independence of the Delegation'.
Stephen M. McCabe,
Attorney At Law, Mineola, New York

'The delegation was subjected to more interference in completing their task than on previous visits to Colombia and were the subject of actual harassment by INPEC prison guards outside the court room. This harassment included being video taped and being subjected to excessive searches and intimate body frisking. Further, the delegation were subjected to an aggressive protest during which local authorities did nothing to stop and involved verbal assaults and jostling of the delegation. Such action against international lawyers and politicians can only lead to one conclusion: that the observation of the trial is unwanted'.
Shaun Kerrigan, [Lawyer]
Sydney, Australia.

'Some of the protestors uttered threats to observers, including "You will pay." The failure of Colombian police authorities to segregate the protestors from the observers was nothing less than shocking'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York

'This observer has serious reservations as to whether or not the three accused are capable of receiving a fair trial under ANY standards of jurisprudence'.
Stephen M. McCabe,
Attorney At Law, Mineola, New York

'Given the decision of the Attorney-General to close the investigative stage before the defence witnesses were interviewed this case has been procedurally unfair from the beginning, but the longer it goes on the less chance the defendants have of receiving a fair trial. The statements of the public officials have placed huge pressure on the judge to secure a conviction because this case is being used for political reasons by the Colombian government although the judge himself did stress the separation of powers'.
Pat Daly
Solicitor, Dublin

'The intimidation of judges and lawyers is a problem of epidemic proportions in Colombia, and the judges and lawyers involved in this case are subject to a variety of pressures that impinge on the defendants' right to a fair trial'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York

'As a result, it appears that the unlawful erosion of the presumption of innocence has been continued by the current President of Colombia and further that its negative effects are manifesting themselves, since the date of the last opinion of the 17th January, 2003'.
Ronan Munro, BL

'As this is a non-jury trial, the judge is both trier of fact and arbiter of law. With all due respect for the professional integrity of the trial judge, this observer is concerned that there is no way that the judge can be immune from the obvious political pressures in this case'.
Natalie Kabasakalian
Attorney At Law, New York

'The comments of the Executive members of the Colombian Government in my view have reduced the ability of the three accused to be able to obtain a fair trial. The Colombian people as a result of these comments expect a guilty verdict. The judge who is contracted to his position with review every four years is in a difficult position and it is difficult to see how the expectation that has been derived by these comments can not result in any verdict other than guilt'.
Shaun Kerrigan,
Sydney, Australia.

'The legal standard in Colombia is beyond certainty, there has been no evidence that would or could convict the three accused as it currently stands by accepted international standards. That is there is no evidence which would be admitted or relied upon by a judicial officer for the purpose of a criminal conviction in any jurisdiction in which I am admitted or have previously practised. Further in my understanding of Colombian law there has been no evidence that has been provided which can not be rebutted'.
Shaun Kerrigan,
Sydney, Australia
.

Trial Resumes on the 8th of April

Initially resumption of the trial was scheduled for the 25th of of March but has been postponed for 2 weeks to resume on the 8th of April until the 11th when defense begins.  During the last hearing in February, Judge Acosta ordered the men's return to La Modelo prison in Bogota where they remain.

Rational For trial Observers (Updated Jan 2003)

The Colombian and Irish Legal teams feel that it is very difficult if not impossible for the three Irishmen to get a fair trial given the politicization of the case and the military and political interests involved.  Therefore it is essential that there are observers at the trial - legal and political observers to monitor different aspects of the case.
The fact that observers are present puts pressure on the Colombian Government and the legal process.  The only hope these men have of receiving a fair trial is if the eyes of the world are watching. 
International observers also play a role in protecting the lives of the defense lawyers whose lives have been threatened.

Full Document>>>


  Prison situation of the three Irishmen (Jan 2003)

  Despite assurances made to the Irish Government and International observers in December that the men would not be moved from Bogotá the men were moved on December 15 from La Modelo to Combita jail 87 miles outside Bogotá. Combita is a jail for sentenced prisoners and it is unconstitutional to hold remand and sentenced prisoners together. It is a very harsh prison regime, they have removed all their books from them claiming they are subversive, they get very limited visits and it is behind glass. The men have been subjected to strip searching and visitors are also strip searched by prison officers.  It is difficult and dangerous for lawyers and family members to visit the men.  Press Release>>>

 

Collapse the trial and bring them home...
Caitríona Ruane

On October 16 lawyers for the three Irishmen were told by Judge Acosta that their trial on charges of training Farc guerrillas would begin on December 2. He asked both the defense and prosecution if they had their witnesses ready to appear and both sides agreed that they had.

There were four defense witnesses for this stage of the trial: three from Ireland and one from Mexico. They, along with a delegation of observers, including parliamentarians and lawyers from the USA, Australia and Ireland, traveled to Colombia.

On Monday morning we arrived at the court ready to hear the prosecution witnesses. Our delegation included Irish parliamentarians Finian McGrath TD, Sean Crowe TD and Senator Mary White, Irish lawyers Pat Daly and Ronan McGrath, US lawyers Cody McCone, Frank Durkan and Shaun Kerrigan. None of the witnesses were available. Eventually there had to be a recess and the prosecutor was asked to present his witness at 2pm.

The witness was a major from military intelligence and was in the opinion of most people (journalists and observers) thoroughly demolished and discredited under cross-examination.

We arrived on Tuesday at the court and we were expecting to hear from two other prosecution witnesses whose appearance and alleged importance has for months been flagged up by the Colombian authorities and sections of the media. When we went to the court we learnt that they were not to appear. The prosecutor read out a letter from one of the witnesses (who is allegedly in prison custody) stating that he was afraid to travel by road but was prepared to travel by air transport. This had not been arranged by the prosecution, despite having advance notice.

Regarding the second witness, the prosecution said that he was in a witness protection programme but that they did not know where he was or how to contact him. The judge adjourned the case until February 5. The Bring Them Home campaign, which is made up of family members and human rights workers, put enormous effort into getting this delegation and our witnesses here for the trial. Fundraising and information events were organised all over Ireland, because this is a very costly exercise.

Two recent fundraising events included a concert in Co Louth, which over 1,000 people attended, and an information event in Liberty Hall, Dublin, four days before the delegation was to travel. We managed to travel 5,000 miles yet the Colombian prosecution could not even ensure that their state witnesses could get to the court. It was an absolute farce and showed the world what we had been saying since our first visit here in September 2001.

In effect, what happened is that the prosecution case collapsed. Had this happened in court in Europe or North America this case would have been dismissed and the men would have been deported on the minor charge of traveling on false passports. What happened confirms our opinion that the men cannot receive a fair trial and that the Colombian authorities are determined to convict them by hook or by crook.

Despite the fact that there is no evidence against them, Niall, Jim and Martin will spend another Christmas in jail in one of the most notorious jails in Colombia. And that is not acceptable. They are in a communal cell with 40 left-wing prisoners and are surrounded by more than 3,000 right-wing paramilitaries. They have to pay for and cook their own food. In Colombian jails you do not eat if you have no money.

The prisoners on the wing take it in turns to keep watch in case the paramilitaries come into their area. They have no exercise yard and have not had any fresh air since they were moved there in mid-October. Given all that, they are in amazingly good spirits and I had three visits with them.

The delegation met with the vice-minister for justice, the vice-minister for foreign affairs, the Red Cross, the United Nations and the ombudsman’s office. We also met with the judge, the prosecutor and the procuraduria. The role of international observers was crucial and obviously had an effect. There was a very strong feeling in the court among journalists and observers that Colombian justice is on trial here in front of the world’s media and failing miserably.

Given the cavalier attitude of the Colombian authorities and the widespread conviction that there is no case against the three men, we are now calling upon the Irish government to immediately intervene with the Colombian government and call for the men’s release.

The Bring Them Home campaign will continue to work for the men’s release – we will leave no stone unturned to bring Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly to their families.

 

Lawyers, Politicians and Human Right's Activists join Delegation To Trial Of The Colombia Three

'The first casualty of any war, even a 21st century war, is truth and justice. In such a scenario human rights, individual and collective usually dissolve into a litany of human abuses hidden behind smokescreens of politics, national sovereignty, and other agendas being scripted in small rooms by faceless committees. More than ever now human rights are the concern of everyone, our conscience requires each of us to stand up and be counted. Silence and indifference are the well loved tools of all those who conspire against justice, truth, human dignity and even the right to life itself'

November 27th 2002 English Press release>>>
                            Spanish press release>>>

UK BASED COLOMBIAN SUPPORT GROUPS CALL FOR RELEASE OF COLOMBIA THREE

November 26th 2002 press Release>>>

Musicians, Writers and activists join fundraising event for the Colombia Three

November 21st 2002 Press release>>>

Paul Hill of the Guilford Four to attend Trial

November 18th 2002 Press release>>>

Parliamentary Delegation To Observe Trial In Colombia

November 13th 2002 Press Release>>>

Men Moved For The Sixth Time 

On the 23rd of October Martin, Niall and Jim were moved from one prison to another for the 6th time in 14 months.  Since January 2002 the men had been held in the high security wing of La Picota prison on the outskirts of Bogotá.  They were transferred without warning to the notorious La Modelo prison where they spent 2 weeks in September 2001 but moved due to fears for their safety. 

The three presently share a small space with 40 other political prisoners.  They are without natural light or fresh air 24 hours a day.  A thin roll of foam on the concrete floor serves as a bed. 

Conditions in La Modelo have been subject to much criticism from numerous Human Rights bodies.  Gun battles are not uncommon within the prison and many inmates have been murdered or disappeared. 
April 2000 saw one of the bloodiest battles within La Modelo 30 inmates lost their lives with many wounded.

"The gun battle raged for nearly 24 hours before security forces finally moved in to retake control. Parts of the prison, known as "La Modelo," were severely damaged by explosives set off by the warring inmates. Investigators also found dozens of hand grenades, as well as high-powered rifles, including AK-47s, Galils and R-15s. Ammunition for a powerful M-60 machine gun, the kind used for shooting down planes, was also confiscated." Colombia Report>>>

 

Amnesty International call for fair trial>>>

Appeal For Trial Observers>>>

Next Trial Hearing  - 2nd December

Officially scheduled for October 2nd 2002, the trial of Martin, Niall and Jim was further postponed until the 16th when the three choose not to attend the sitting in Bogotá.  Although that decision was within their legal rights a riot squad was brought in to forcibly remove the men from La Picota.  They were handcuffed, manhandled (receiving cuts and bruises) then taken to the reception area of the prison from where they were later returned to their patio.  As punishment Niall was separated from Martin and Jim for a week, placed in a cell with a number of prisoners including right-wing paramilitaries. 

On October 16th the hearing went ahead in the men's absence but a declaration from the three was handed to Judge Jairo Acosta stating reasons for their decision.

"...it is clear that we will not get a fair trial taking into account the serious pressure being exerted on the trial judge from the highest authority in the state. The universal  principle of  “presumption of innocence”,  due process and Colombian judicial sovereignty have not been acknowledged or recognized.  

  Once all the evidence against us is examined then we will reconsider our position as to what we are entitled to do. We want to have the opportunity to contest the evidence against us and that international principles of justice are respected.

  We are concerned for our safety,  we want a just and fair trial.  We want our rights guaranteed as enshrined in national and international law." full declaration>>>

Attorney General Luis Camilo Osario is but one "authority in the state" to have publicly deemed the men guilty.  On November 8th 2002 Human Rights watch published a damning report into the Record Of The Attorney General's Office. "... the clearest signal that the new attorney general (Osario) opposed human rights prosecutions was his decision to rid the office of the prosecutors who had carried them out. Within seventy-two hours of his arrival, Osorio had demanded the resignations of two high-ranking, veteran officials who had handled some of the institution's most important and complex human rights cases (military/paramilitary links)."  HRW Publication November 2002>>>

Monday April 15th 2002, in an article published in the Washington Post the then President of Colombia Andres Pastrana stated the men's guilt saying "IRA members were captured in Colombia after training FARC guerrillas in urban terrorism."  High Stakes in Colombia>>>

The defense lawyers for the three believe the men cannot get a fair trial given the level of political interference from Colombian and US authorities since their arrest.  Lawyers Press Release April 2002>>>  
Judge Jairo Acosta set December 2nd as the date for the next hearing.

It is not possible for the men to receive a fair trial. They are in constant danger living in inhumane conditions.  The families of Martin, Niall and Jim call for their immediate release and return to Ireland.