Jenny, Jimmy and Jefferson Torres: another judicial battle against impunity
In October 2010 two girls were raped. One of them was killed along with her two little brothers, allegedly by a Colombian soldier in the countryside of a town called Tame, Northeastern Colombia. A prosecutor of the Attorney General’s office charged Second Lieutenant Raul Muñoz Linares with the rape and murders.
The judicial process against Muñoz was delayed yet again one more week as Muñoz’s new lawyer asked for more time to prepare his clients defense.
The day before the May 20 hearing Defensoria Militar, the organization that had taken on the defense of Muñoz announced it was leaving this case.
Muñoz is the only active member of the Colombian Army charged with the October 2010 murder of three children in the rural area of the eastern town of Tame, Arauca province. Muñoz was an officer in the Mobile Brigade Number 5.
Jenny, Jimmy (9 years old) and Jefferson (6 years old) Torres were abducted from there rural home while their father Jose Torres, a campesino was working in the fields. Jenny, a 14 year old was raped, tortured and murdered along with her two brothers. Muñoz raped another girl two weeks before, according to medical tests carried out by the INML (National Institute of Legal Medicine).
State sponsored violence against Colombia citizens is nothing new. The killing of at least 2,500 union leaders over the past twenty years has stymied the approval of a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.
There is a long list of organizations that work for human rights in Colombia including the Lawyers Collective Jose Alvear Restrepo.
MOVICE, founded in 2004, is another organization that works for justice and reparation for the victims of state sponsored crimes. They have developed an eight-point strategy that includes fighting against political genocide, forced disappearance and to demand monetary reparation for victims.
Despite years of state sponsored crimes and almost total impunity the killing of these three children in Tame caused public outrage and brought about swift judicial action, but in this case there have been delays, threats and acts of violence against those who seek justice.
According to Humanidad Vigente – a Colombian organization that supports communities and organizations that work in areas of armed conflict – and represents the parents of the three children and the other girl who was raped, the discovery phase had been postponed until May 27.
One reason for this delay was that Humanidad Vigente requested a change of venue after judge Gloria Gaona – initially assigned to this case- was shot to death on March 22 of this year in the city of Saravena, Arauca province.
But this case has seen major delays because Muñoz’s defense team has consistently dragged its feet. And on May 20 the new defense team was granted a week to prepare for the discovery phase.
Judge Marta Artunduaga, now in charge of this case said that Muñoz has been granted his judicial rights despite all the tactics used by Defensoria Militar to the delay the process.
Defensoria Militar is a member organization that defends active or retired Colombian military personnel, who in turn support the organization with their contributions.
According to Janet Zamora, attorney with Humanidad Vigente the discovery phase for this case will take one day and the presiding judge will determine whether there are merits to try Muñoz for these crimes. She added that Humanidad and the Prosecutors office are confident they will meet the burden of proof and move on to the trial.
The question of whether one man, Muñoz, could subdue the three children plagues this process. But there is no material evidence, no traces of DNA on the clothing and bodies of the children or of the other 40 active military personnel initially investigated that would allow the Colombian Prosecutors office to issue more indictments in this case.
Zamora said that seven active members of the military are currently suspended for disciplinary reasons related to these murders.
She added that Humanidad Vigente is working to get more active military members indicted because officers did not control troops under their command and protect the residents of the area. And Humanidad also wants the Colombian state to accept responsibility and offer Torres family members compensation for the murder of their children.
Zamora added that as of early May Olga Silva, another lawyer for Humanidad Vigente linked to this case had received threatening phone calls, while the Torres family is under strict protection in Bogota.