Trial of soldier Raúl Muñoz was put on hold by his defence lawyer
The discovery phase in the court case against Colombian Army Second Lieutenant Raúl Muñoz Linares, accused by the Colombian Prosecuting Attorneys office of raping two girls and then murdering one of them along with her two brothers in the rural area of the city of Tame, Arauca province was once again suspended awaiting yet another decision from the Superior Tribunal of Bogota.
Sergio Rodríguez Alzate, defense attorney for Raúl Muñoz Linares requested the exclusion of material evidence collected during the exhumation of the bodies of the Torres siblings.
He also requested the clothing gathered in the unmarked graves on which traces of the Second Lieutenant’s DNA were found be dismissed.
Rodriguez’s petition to exclude this evidence was rejected by the 27th Circuit judge Marta Artunduaga after the discovery phase was reinitiated in early July in Bogota. There have been recurrent delays and suspensions since February 2011 when the discovery phase was taking place in the city of Saravena, Arauca province.
The defense attorney filed an appeal to the judge’s decision and now the Superior Tribunal of Bogota will decide if the material evidence should be admitted or excluded.
Rodríguez Alzate argued that the exhumation was illegal because the Red Cross in charge of the procedure did not comply with the regular guidelines.
The Prosecuting Attorney Victor Julio Lozano and an official from the Public Ministry Luisa Fernanda Rueda argued that excluding such vital evidence would hinder the process, that the same evidence were already accepted in Saravena and it would not be prudent to back track into yet another delay.
Olga Silva, a lawyer with Humanidad Vigente representing the victims said that the petition from the defense attorney gravely impacts the victim’s rights, delaying once again this process. She also indicated that the alleged illegality of the evidence is speculative because the Red Cross is in capacity to undertake these processes under exceptional circumstances, as is the case of the two Torres brothers, whose bodies were found in areas of armed conflict. Silva also pointed out that there is a norm in Colombia’s Judicial Police manual that allows the Prosecuting office to delegate judicial police tasks to other public entities, like the Red Cross.
In the mean time Judge Artunduaga substantiated her decision to deny Rodriguez’s request based on the recent decision handed down by the Superior Tribunal of Bogota that indicates that the discovery phase, that started in Saravena was valid and that decisions made there about the evidence to be used by the prosecutors office stands.
Furthermore the moment to ask for the elimination of the evidence to be used by Prosecutors office is over. And Judge Gloria Gaona issued an order (in charge of the case until her murder) approving all the evidence, including the questioned by the defense attorney. In Judge Artunduaga’s opinion yielding to the defense’s request would harm the process.
The defense will use testimony of demobilized fighters
The defense attorney also surprisingly announced that he would call two alleged demobilized FARC guerrilla members, who can testify about a supposed relationship with the murdered girl.
In the face of this allegation Prosecuting Attorney Lozano sounded the alarms because these testimonies trample and violate the victim’s intimacy and sexual rights, turning this in to a case of revictimization of the girl and her relatives.
As stated in a 2005 Constitutional Court decision, the victims of sex crimes have the constitutional right to have their intimacy protected against practices that imply an unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate intromission into their private life, through questions about the victim’s social or sexual behavior before or after the incidents investigated.
Lozano also called attention to the demobilization dates of the two people called to testify, because one was demobilized in 2008 and the other in 2009, while the crimes for which Muñoz Linares is accused took place in October 2010. What relevant information can they have about the crime after having left the region between a year and two years?
For her part the victims attorney asked the testimonies be rejected because they are not related to the crimes for which Muñoz Linares is accused, they do not refer to material facts of the investigation and on the contrary, they intend to impact the victim’s dignity.
A call for Solidarity and Vigilance
Humanidad Vigente and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Arauca call human rights, children’s rights and women’s rights advocates, as well the international community and Colombian society to closely watch the court case against Second Lieutenant Raúl Muñoz Linares.
There have been irregular maneuvers from the beginning of this process that violate the girls and boys rights, the victims in this crime and their families rights to have swift justice and full reparation.