Colombia: a Father Seeks an End to Impunity

On September 22nd, 2005, chemistry student Jhonny Silva , who because of a physical handicap was unable to run away and save himself, was killed by riot police on the campus of the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia, as the police invaded the grounds to break up a protest against the proposed free trade agreement with the United States.  On this, the fifth anniversary, his father, Wilman Silva, plans to make a pilgrimage from Cali to Bogotá to seek an end to impunity for the killers of his son.

The case has been before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which prompted the Colombian court system to take enough action to reclaim jurisdiction.  But in the words of the attorney for the victim, “The prosecutor of the Superior Court of Cali recently ordered Captain Gabriel Bonilla González absolved of all responsibility in the death of Jhonny Silva Aranguren.  This is an obviously biased action that does not respect the minimum standards of the administration of justice in the investigation and punishment of extrajudicial killings.

“Despite the existence of multiple witness statements and technical evidence unequivocally demonstrating that members of the ESMAD [riot police] entered the Universidad del Valle armed and fired on the student, causing his death, the prosecutor decided to close the investigation into the members of the National Police who participated in these acts…

“On top of this, it is extremely worrisome that the federal prosecutor disregards the national constitution and violates the autonomy of universities, validating the forcible intrusion of government forces onto a university campus, a situation which puts at risk the rights of members of the university community to life, integrity, and liberty…

“This decision of the federal prosecutor constitutes the institutionalization of impunity, for which reason we will argue before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the Colombian state be condemned for this crime and will request that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court open an investigation into these events, since it is clear that in Colombia the guiding principle of the justice system is to favor the victimizers.”  [my translation; original Spanish available]

An English translation of the press release for the upcoming pilgrimage follows:
Dear Friends

There have already been five years of impunity in the case of our son Jhonny Silva Aranguren, which has been passed by 13 prosecutors. The Prosecutor’s Office to the Superior Court of Cali, recently ordered to absolve Captain Gabriel Bonilla Gonzalez’s responsibility in the death of Jhonny Silva Aranguren. This is a partial action, which does not respect the minimum that should characterize the administration of justice in the effective investigation and punishment of extrajudicial executions.

Driven by the desire for Justice in a country where justice is designed to encourage Impunity for victims, we are left with very few means to report on our own what the State through its agencies provides for the perpetrators.

We then ask your solidarity to support us during this activity we have called “Step by step against impunity,” knowing that it is in our hands to fight for Truth, Justice and Comprehensive Reparation:

Logistics and requirements:
Road transport on roads
Cali – Buga, Buga-Tulua, Tulua-Zarzal, Zarzal – Armenia, Armenia – Ibague, Ibague – Soacha

In Tulua, Armenia,

Supporters to Acts of Solidarity:
Universidad del Valle de Buga, Tulua, Zarzal
University of Quindío
Universidad del Tolima
National University

Please disseminate nationaly and internationaly  our demands in the case of Jhonny Silva Aranguren and support us in the stages of this walk.

_________________          _______________________

Guagua-Gallery Foundation Memory Tiberio F.
Association of Victims of the Slaughter family of Trujillo-AFAVIT