Operation Dragon

In this operation, trade union leaders, human rights defenders and political leaders from Valle del Cauca were the target of an assassination plot and a smear campaign.

In August 2004, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) discovered a series of official documents detailing Operation Dragon, which involved the illegal surveillance of 170 people (one of them was Berenice Celeita, president of NOMADESC, an organisation accompanied by PBI)[1] for the alleged purpose of murdering human rights defenders, trade union leaders and members of the political opposition in Colombia. The Public Prosecutor proved that the Army’s 3rd Brigade, Cali Police and the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) had given support and collaborated in gathering the information.[2]

In October 2011, three soldiers were arrested for taking part in Operation Dragon,[3] which was allegedly coordinated by Colonel Julian Villate Leal,[4] (who was in fact appointed as security coordinator for the United State Embassy in Bogota, between December 2004 and July 2005, after details of the operation had been brought to the public’s attention).[5] In 2011, the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest of three officers, including Colonel Villate Leal, and they were called to trial for conspiracy to commit crime.[6] According to Jorge Molano, the Prosecutor subsequently reduced the charges to simple conspiracy to commit crime, arguing that there was no proof that they had wanted to kill the human rights defenders and trade unionists, and ordered that they be released.

For Jorge Molano, Operation Dragon continues to be a “case of alarming and shameless impunity”.[7] In 2007, the lawyer took the case to the Inter-American Human Rights System and where it is being considered for admissibility.[8]

In the first week of September 2016, the trial of Colonel Villate, Major Hugo Abondano Mikan and Major Fidel Rivera Jaimes began at Cali Specialist Court No.4.[9]


Footnotes

[1] Human Rights First: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, 2009
[2] Ibíd.
[3] El Espectador: Primeras detenciones por ‘Operación Dragón’, 3rd October 2011
[4] El Tiempo: Asegurados tres oficiales del ejército por seguimiento a sindicalistas, 3rd October 2011
[5] Noticias Uno: Operación Dragón en la embajada de EEUU en Colombia, 6th May 2007; Associated Press: Alleged assassin worked at US Embassy in Colombia, 25th April 2007
[6] El Espectador: Op. cit., 3rd October 2011; Interview with Jorge Molano, 16th September 2015
[7] PBI Colombia: Operación Dragón: “Un caso de alarmante y descarada impunidad”, dice el abogado Jorge Molano, 14th May 2012, According to Molano “the rest of those implicated in the case, the head of security at Emcali, the manager of Emcali, the Superintendent of public services, the heads of the 3rd Brigade, the DAS personnel who took part, and the Police, continue to hide behind impunity”. Interview with Jorge Molano, 16th September 2015
[8] Interview with Jorge Molano, 16th September 2015
[9] Interview with Jorge Molano, 29th August 2016

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