A Public Hearing in Ocaña

Returning from Ocaña, I glance at the photos I took there: well-restored colonial churches, people enjoying themselves in a park.

It was a complete contrast to what I heard inside the public hearing I attended there. I accompanied Leonardo Marín, a lawyer for the Foundation Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (Fcspp) based in Bucaramanga.  The human rights lawyer was defending a victim in one of the inappropriately named “false positives” cases.[1]

The victim is the mother of one of these “false positives”. What does a mother feel participating in a public hearing where they speak about the murder of her son? Not only that but in the public hearing the mother sees and listens to the accused. The accused is the man who recruited her son and the reason that that her son no longer lives.

A son who was just 18 when he was taken by this man to a municipality far from the city where he lived, to an area affected by the armed conflict. He was taken there with the promise of a job and better life, and her son along with two other men, not knowing that this man was recruiting them, went with the man.  Instead of giving them jobs he killed them, he dressed them in military fatigues and declared them guerrilla fighters killed in combat.

In the public hearing I listen to the preliminary agreements read by the district attorney and the possible prison sentence of the accused.  Leonardo makes clear in his declaration the importance of this case, ” as this case is a state crime, and therefore an emblematic case.  One has to look for truth and justice for respect of the murdered individuals, for the victims, for society”.

The judge asks the victim if she also wants to say something. She is not prepared but she does want to say something. She speaks with clear and sincere words. She speaks of her desire to find the truth; she says that she is ok with the preliminary agreements made with the accused.  She turns to him and says, “he was only carrying out orders, the people most guilty are the masterminds behind this, the ones that in many cases remain in impunity”.  And she point out that it is very important that the State should provide protection for the accused so that nothing happens to him because he is testifying as a witness. Because finding the truth, is the way to find justice.

It was an impressive and emotional moment.  The mother, in her search to find the truth, was worried for the security of the murderer of her son.

– Katharina Möbs-Pizarro


[1] Human Rights Watch World Report 2015, 23rd of June 2015


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