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2005-01-18 18:51:00
Embassy Bogota
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 000431 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/13/2015

REF: A. 01 BOGOTA 8188

B. 01 BOGOTA 2647

C. 02 BOGOTA 1349

D. 02 STATE 65982

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).


1. (C) The Fiscalia announced it has closed its criminal case
against retired Rear Admiral Rodrigo Quinonez for his alleged
complicity in the January 2001 paramilitary massacre at
Chengue. The head of the Fiscalia's Human Rights Unit told
Embassy officials that Quinonez's case was handled by a
special Supreme Court Prosecutor who decided to close it
because of lack of justiciable evidence. In 2003, the
Procuraduria had ordered that Quinonez and four others be
dismissed from the armed forces for their alleged involvement
in the atrocity. Differing standards of proof in
administrative and criminal processes accounted, at least in
part, for the conflicting rulings. End Summary.




2. (C) On January 7, the Office of the Prosecutor General
("Fiscalia") announced it had closed its investigation of
retired Rear Admiral Rodrigo Quinonez for suspected
complicity in the January 2001 paramilitary massacre in the
village of Chengue, Sucre Department, where paramilitaries
used large stones and machetes to kill 27 unarmed civilians.
Quinonez, who commanded the Colombian Navy's First Brigade at
the time, had been charged with dereliction of duty
("omission") for allegedly doing nothing to prevent the
massacre after he was alerted that it might take place.
Several soldiers under Quinonez's command were charged with
facilitating the atrocity by providing paramilitaries with
intelligence and equipment.

3. (C) The criminal investigation of the Chengue massacre was
flawed from the start and marred by threats and violence.
The Fiscalia's Human Rights Unit lacked a regional presence
at the time, creating delays in the initial inquiry and
complicating the long, drawn-out investigation. Many
elements of the Colombian military were less than
cooperative, and parallel investigations of several other
large-scale paramilitary massacres put significant strains on
the Unit's resources and personnel. Two members of the
Fiscalia's Corps of Technical Investigators (CTI) -- the
Fiscalia's in-house detective force -- disappeared while
working undercover on the case in April 2001, and are
presumed dead. A third CTI investigator working on the case
was murdered in February 2002. In August 2001, suspected
paramilitaries murdered the senior prosecutor in charge of
the case in front of her home in the departmental capital of
Sincelejo. The investigation was also plagued by allegations
evidence tampering, threats against witnesses, and suspected
paramilitary infiltration of the Sincelejo prosecutor's


Inspector General's Office Sanctions Quinonez


4. (C) On December 16, 2003, the Inspector General's Office
("Procuraduria") -- which has the power to impose
administrative, but not criminal, sanctions -- ordered that
Quinonez, Captains Oscar Eduardo Saavedra and Camilo
Martinez, and Sergeants Euclides Bossa and Ruben Dario Rojas
be dismissed from the armed forces for their responsibility
for events at Chengue. The Procuraduria ruled that Quinonez,
Saavedra, and Martinez failed to take appropriate measures to
prevent the massacre after local police alerted their command
to the presence of paramilitaries in the area. Bossa and
Rojas were dismissed for providing the paramilitaries with
weapons and helping them recruit guerrilla deserters. All
five were prohibited from holding public offices for a period
of five years and banned from access to military facilities.
The dismissals and additional sanctions were confirmed on
internal appeal in September 2004. Quinonez had already been
"severely reprimanded" by the Procuraduria in the 1990s for
allegedly directing anti-communist death squads in the
Santander Department river port city of Barrancabermeja, then
dominated by the National Liberation Army (ELN). A military
tribunal ruled Quinonez was not criminally responsible for
those alleged offenses.


Meeting with Fiscalia


5. (C) On January 13, Embassy officials met with Elba Beatriz
Silva, current director of the Human Rights Unit, who
explained that although the Unit investigated the Chengue
case, Quinonez's rank required that he be prosecuted by one
of the Fiscalia's special Supreme Court Prosecutors
("Fiscales Delegados ante la Corte"), who handle cases in
which the Supreme Court has primary jurisdiction. According
to Silva, the senior prosecutor decided to drop the case
against Quinonez for lack of sufficient evidence to achieve a
criminal conviction. Silva said this was a result of paucity
of witnesses willing to testify, the disappearance of other
witnesses, and the murders of various investigators.
Verdicts of "not guilty" in several Chengue-related
prosecutions advanced by the Human Rights Unit also
undermined the case against Quinonez. Prosecutor General
Luis Camilo Osorio personally signed off on the Supreme Court
Prosecutor's decision.


Different Standards of Proof


6. (C) Despite working from the same evidence, the Fiscalia
and the Procuraduria came to different conclusions because
they were imposing distinct legal provisions with different
standards of proof. The Procuraduria is able sanction
individuals administratively -- with dismissal as the most
drastic sanction -- on the basis of far less evidence and
certainly less than the Fiscalia needs to prove a criminal
violation. For example, in the Quinonez case, the Fiscalia
had to prove to the rough equivalent of the U.S. "beyond a
reasonable doubt" standard that Quinonez knew of the
impending massacre. The Procuraduria, on the other hand,
only needed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence
that Quinonez "should have known" about the risk of a
massacre. The Procuraduria did not have to prove that
Quinonez actually did know of the risk of a massacre.