Court revokes custodial arrest measure on two leaders prosecuted for protesting Toronto-based oil company in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On November 27, 2018, more than 200 members of the Army and Police landed in San Luis de Palenque, Casanare, Colombia and charged eight local activists with a variety of criminal charges in relation to their protests against the harms caused by the operations of Toronto-based Frontera Energy in their community.

While we are waiting for more details (hopefully in the morning), the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COSPACC) has just tweeted: “The 2nd Mpal Criminal Court with functions of control of guarantees of #Yopal revoked the custodial arrest measure imposed on 2 of the 8 leaders prosecuted in the case of #SanLuisdePalenque. We demand the freedom of social leaders.”

And Fabian Laverde from COSPACC has also tweeted a short video clip (including the image at the top of this article) with the message: “The joy of a family case @FronteraEnergy upon hearing the decision of the 2nd Judge of Yopal with a guarantee control function. For the defense of life and permanence in the territories.”

PBI-Colombia accompanies both COSPACC and the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) who have been working on this issue.

PBI-Canada has been supporting this by organizing Zoom meetings in Canada with Member of Parliament Paul Manly, civil society allies, and representatives from Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Colombia.

The issue of the eight social leaders was also raised by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders as outlined here.

Michel Forst highlighted: “In November 2018, Frontera Energy signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US$1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities.” It was just days later that the social leaders were arrested.

More to come…

UPDATE: On August 11, Prensa Libre Casanare reported:

Free 2 social leaders of the Cubiro block. They were deprived of liberty for 20 months due to a complaint by Frontera Energy

Two social leaders prosecuted for participating in the protests against the oil project in the Cubiro block of the multinational Frontera Energy in San Luis de Palenque, were released after a hearing held yesterday in the Second Criminal Court for Guarantee Control.

After 20 months of being deprived of liberty, with the measure of house for jail, the judicial decision favored the engineer Miguel Ángel Rincón Santiesteban and Carmen Iraida Salcedo Gutiérrez.

The appeal was presented by criminal lawyer Juan Álvarez who at the end of the hearing reported that the revocation of the security measure was requested based on three elements used by the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out the criminal process, such as an intelligence report from the Army , some telephone calls and a confidential testimonial source, whose probative basis did not have sufficient support, since, for example, the Prosecutor’s Office waived the evidence of an alleged undercover agent.

Álvarez added that it was possible to demonstrate that Rincón Santiesteban and Carmen Iraida do not represent a danger to the administration of justice and that the Prosecutor’s Office was also asked to present the complaints against the two indicated in which threats were established against Frontera Energy employees , without a single being presented.

Among the evidence presented, a certification was issued by the Mayor of San Luis de Palenque, the Councilors and more than 150 people in the area that indicates that Rincón and Salcedo do not represent any risk to society, but, on the contrary are considered social leaders who sought the good of a general interest related to the environment and the fulfillment of obligations established in a list of requests, including job opportunities.

One of the major supports of the social leaders was a meeting held between the multinational, the Ministry of the Interior, the Departmental Government Secretariat, where the community demanded compliance with a series of items from the oil company, as they considered social impacts and were the State entities that mediated in said requests, which were ultimately breached by Frontera Energy.

For the same case, the former councilor of San Luis de Palenque, Ferney Salcedo, who is being held in the La Picota prison, continues to be deprived of liberty; Yulibe Leal, Jesús Leal Salcedo, Teresa Rincón Leal, Eliecer Rincón and Jerónimo Betancourt, who were captured in a cinematic raid operation in advance of their homes by the Police, and the CTI around 3:00 in the morning on November 27 while they slept on their farms, located in the Sinaí and Guarataro Valley estates of the Platanales, La Venturosa and El Tigre villages in the municipality of San Luis de Palenque.

The full article can be read in Spanish here.

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