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08PARTO20503 2008-02-05 23:16:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY US Delegation, Secretary
Cable title:  

(SBU) Secretary Rice's Meeting with Colombian

Tags:   OVIP RICE CONDOLEEZZA ETRD ECIN EINV ELAB 
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(Note: the unique message record number (MRN) has been modified. The original MRN was 08 PARTO 000003, which duplicates a previous PARTO telegram number.)

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP RICE CONDOLEEZZA ETRD ECIN EINV ELAB
PGOV, PHUM, PREL, PETER, VE, CO, KJUS
SUBJECT: (SBU) Secretary Rice's Meeting with Colombian
Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran




1. (U) January 25, 2008; 2:15 p.m.; Medellin, Colombia.



2. (SBU) Participants:

United States
The Secretary
Ambassador William R. Brownfield
Representative Melissa Bean
Representative Eliot Engel
Representative Jane Harman
Representative Alcee Hastings
Representative Ron Klein
Representative Rick Larsen
Representative Solomon Ortiz
Representative Ed Perlmutter
Representative David Scott
A/S Jeffrey Bergner, H
A/S Sean McCormack, PA
A/S Thomas Shannon, WHA
A/S Daniel Sullivan, EEB
S Chief of Staff Brian Gunderson
Director of House Affairs Scott Kamins
Deputy Executive Secretary Kevin Whitaker
Adam Lenert, Embassy Notetaker

COLOMBIA
Attorney General Mario Iguaran
Ambassador Carolina Barco
Minister of Social Protection Diego Palacio Betancourt
Vice Minister of Labor Andres Palacios
Director of International Relations for the Attorney
General's Office Fransisco Echeverri
Justice and Peace Unit Director Luis Gonzalez
Human Rights Unit Acting Director Carolos Alberto Camargo
MFA U.S. and Canada Coordinator Patricia Cortes
Witness Protection Unit Director Gilberto Martinez
Private Secretary to the Prosecutor General Luz Elena
Morales



3. (SBU) SUMMARY. Prosecutor General Iguaran detailed his
office's progress on combating impunity in cases of labor
violence. He described the creation of a special labor
sub-unit with a team of prosecutors and investigators
dedicated to union cases, and reported that the unit
achieved convictions in 27 cases in 2007. Iguaran
recounted his office's efforts to investigate
extrajudicial killings and underscored progress in
obtaining information on human rights cases through the
Justice and Peace Law process. The Secretary thanked him
for the significant efforts made by his office. END
SUMMARY.





--------------------------


FISCALIA COMMITTED TO ADVANCING LABOR CASES


--------------------------






4. (SBU) Colombian Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran told
Secretary Rice and the congressional delegation of
progress in Colombia's efforts to prosecute perpetrators
of violence against labor leaders. Iguaran, though
nominated and approved by the Congress, runs the
Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) independently from
the executive and judicial branches.



5. (SBU) Iguaran said he regretted Colombia's poor record
on achieving convictions in cases of violence against
unionists, but emphasized that the Fiscalia has committed
to reversing that trend. He had dedicated significant
resources and manpower to tackling those cases. The
Fiscalia had created a special sub-unit for labor cases,
staffed with 13 prosecutors and 77 investigators. In
2008, the Colombian government will increase the
prosecutors in the Human Rights Unit, which includes the
labor team, from 45 to more than 100. It will also raise
the budget for the Human Rights and Justice and Peace
units by more than USD 40 million.



--------------------------


IMPORTANT PROGRESS ALREADY ACHIEVED


--------------------------





6. (SBU) Iguaran underscored the progress made by the
Fiscalia so far, noting that 59 cases had already been
prosecuted, with 126 criminals sent to prison. He
explained that the courts found that many cases of alleged
violence had motives un-related to the victims' union
affiliation. Typical motives in these cases included
common crime, personal conflicts, and violence between
illegal armed groups. Still, Iguaran acknowledged that
some cases of targeted violence did have links to union
affiliation and vowed to prosecute the perpetrators.



7. (SBU) Iguaran explained that paramilitary confessions
in the Justice and Peace Law { which encouraged
paramilitaries to demobilize and confess their crimes in
exchange for reduced sentences { have produced a wealth of
information on crimes against unionists and other human
rights abuses. He added that these confessions gave the
Fiscalia information about many cases that previously had
no leads, and also implicated others in the crimes.
"Although it is imperfect, this process has finally
allowed for a system of justice and reparations to


victims," Iguaruan observed. The demobilization of
paramilitary members has also created greater security and
contributed to the substantial decrease in unionist
murders.



--------------------------



--------------------------


PROSECUTING PERPETRATORS OF EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS


--------------------------



--------------------------





8. (SBU) Representative Scott asked Iguaran to respond to
criticisms by Human Rights Watch that Colombian military
officials had a role in extrajudicial killings. Iguaran
responded that some unfortunate incidents of military
involvement had occurred, but stressed that the Fiscalia
set up a special unit to investigate these cases and
prosecutes perpetrators to the full extent of the law.
Authorities have arrested 69 members of the military
implicated in such crimes so far, and the Fiscalia has
already brought seven of those cases to trial.



--------------------------


U.S. SUPPORT VITAL TO CONTINUING PROGRESS


--------------------------





9. (SBU) In response to Members of Congress' questions on
labor violence, Iguaran said the Fiscalia meets regularly
with organized labor to gather information for
investigations and prioritize cases. He said Colombia's
recent transition to a more efficient, oral accusatory
system, accomplished through help from the U.S. Department
of Justice, would help to achieve further progress more
quickly. The oral accusatory system has already reduced
the average trial time from a matter of years to a few
months.



10. (SBU) Iguaran said the United States has been the
greatest friend of justice in Colombia, helping with
significant resources and technical assistance. Iguaran
pointed out that the International Labor Organization
visited Colombia in November and issued a report that
praised the government for its implementation to date of
the tripartite agreement on labor concerns signed by the
Colombian government, labor unions, and industry leaders.



11. (SBU) The Secretary noted that the Fiscalia has made
extraordinary progress and its efforts deserve
recognition. She thanked Iguaran for his efforts to
expose the truth and bring human rights violators to
justice.
RICE