INSPP statement on escalation of political arrests and prisoner abuses in Colombian prisons

The International Network in Solidarity with Colombia's Political Prisoners (INSPP) is deeply troubled by a recent series of political arrests and fatalities under questionable circumstances in Colombian prisons. Already in the first month of 2011, there have been at least two such fatalities and four arrests of student and labor activists. The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos speaks about improvements in the human rights situation in the country, but the indications are otherwise.

On January 13th, the poet, university student and cultural activist Angye Gaona was arrested in Bucaramanga with no explanation nor formal charges filed. On January 17th, student activists Julian Andoni Dominguez and William Rivera Rueda, also a member of the Informal Workers union, were arrested in Bucaramanga. Again, no explanation was given and no charges filed. Another arrest that occurred on the 17th, in the city of Medellin, was that of Aracely Ca√Īaveral Velez. For the past twenty years, she has been a leader in labor organizing for the Garment Workers, Textile and Informal Workers unions. Ca√Īaveral is the sole provider for a minor-age child and elderly mother. The day following her arrest, she was moved to a prison 703 kilometers from her family and charged with conspiracy to commit assault and drug trafficking.

On January 18th, the INSPP learned of the death of political prisoner Jose Albeiro Manjarres Cupitre due to terminal cancer of the stomach. Manjarres was an inmate of the US funded and designed Palogordo prison in Girón--part of the "New Penitentiary Culture", a US-Colombian project to redesign maximum and medium security prisons. Despite legal petitions and a hunger strike by fellow prisoners to get Manjarres adequate treatment, the circumstances of his illness and death are tantamount to torture. The prison refused to provide adequate diagnosis and treatment for Manjarres, although he began suffering severe abdominal pains in July, 2009. Instead, prison health contractors told him he had "acute gastritis". He did not learn the full extent of his condition until December 17th. Even then, he was not taken to a prison equipped with proper hospice facilities and treatment for pain, dying instead in the hospital wing of La Modelo prison.

The INSPP also learned of the suicide by hanging of Leandro Salcedo on January 21st. Salcedo was being held at La Tramac√ļa prison, the first of the prisons built as a part of the "New Penitentiary Culture". La Tramac√ļa is infamous for its terrible conditions, including limiting of inmate access to running water for only ten minutes a day and repeated findings of fecal contamination of prison food. Salcedo had been held in solitary confinement for nine months, 24 hours a day, with no access to sunlight and in temperatures regularly reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit). Some inmates in La Tramac√ļa have been held in solitary confinement for as long as two years.

With more than 7,500 political prisoners, Colombian prisons are increasingly functioning to crush political dissent and to serve as a theater of war. Political prisoners are being moved from special units into the general population where they are singled out for violence by paramilitary gangs and prison guards. Since the beginning of the "New Penitentiary Culture", prison capacity has been increased by 40%. At the same time, the number of provably arbitrary political arrests has risen by 300%--cases later thrown out of court for lack of evidence, usually after an average three years of incarceration.

The INSPP calls on the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate conditions in Colombian prisons and the treatment of political prisoners. We call on the Colombian government to:

1) Stop the torture, abuse and neglect of political--and all--prisoners.

2) Segregate political prisoners into separate units for their protection.

3) Stop all politically motivated arrests.

4) Negotiate for a humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war as a first step toward dialogue for peace.

5) Free all Prisoners of Conscience and Political Frame-ups immediately.

Letter to Defence Minister from Australia's tertiary education union

17th December 2010 

The Hon Stephen Smith

Minister for Defence

PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600 

Dear Minister, 

As you will be aware, the Colombian regime is currently holding hundreds of political prisoners.  Those deprived of their liberty include human rights defenders, trade unionists, student and community leaders and academics. 

I trust that you will agree that this practice of jailing innocent people because of their opposition to Government policies is completely unacceptable. Therefore, we hope the Australian Government will speak out forcefully about this situation and demand that the Colombian Government free those that continue to be jailed for expressing their political opinions. 

British academics and parliamentarians have recently called for the release of the following Colombian political prisoners: trade unionists, Rosalba Gaviria and Liliany Obando; human rights defenders, David Ravelo Crespo, Jose Samuel Rojas and Carmelo Agamez and university professor, Dr Miguel Angel Beltran.  In Australia, we also believe that these political prisoners must be released as they have been in jail for well over a year without having been convicted of any crime whatsoever. 

The Colombian regime cannot expect to have normal relations with democratic countries such as Australia as long as they continue to imprison their critics.  We look forward to hearing from you with regard to any progress that you have made in encouraging the Colombian authorities to free their political prisoners. 

Yours faithfully, 

Genevieve Kelly

State Secretary 

Latest hearing of politically motivated charges against Liliany Obando

The following is an account in Spanish of the most recent hearing of charges against human rights defender Liliany Obando on January 20. On that day Liliany had been in jail for 2 years, 5 months and 12 days without conviction and there is still no end of this human rights abuse in sight. The original report can be seen at

Ayer se llev√≥ a cabo audiencia p√ļblica dentro del proceso adelantado por el Juzgado 9¬ļ Penal Especializado de Bogot√° contra la defensora de derechos humanos LILIANY OBANDO VILLOTA, por el cual cumple 2 a√Īos, 5 meses y 12 dias arbitrarieamente privada de la libertad en condici√≥n de sindicada.

En esta audiencia se recibi√≥ el testimonio de la intendente de la polic√≠a Yesenia Ballestas, de 35 a√Īos de edad, oriunda de la ciudad de Cartagena, tecn√≥loga en inform√°tica y estudiante de ingenier√≠a se sistemas, quien fue una de las agentes de la Dijin que tuvo acceso a los dispositivos inform√°ticos presuntamente hallados en el campamento de Ra√ļl Reyes en territorio ecuatoriano el pasado 1 de marzo de 2008.

Manifest√≥ la intendente que los elementos fueron entregados al equipo de inform√°tica de la Dijin el 3 de marzo de 2008, correspondi√©ndole a ella el acceso a un dispositivo inform√°tico, en el cual no encontr√≥ correos electr√≥nicos o informaci√≥n de navegaci√≥n en internet, √ļnicamente documentos en Word, Excel, power point, videos e im√°genes.

Dice la testigo que los elementos fueron hallados el 1 de marzo y antes de ser entregados al equipo de informática varios archivos de los dispositivos fueron accedidos, puesto que en el historial de los mismos aparecen los registros de acceso y modificación.

Con este testimonio se culminaron las pruebas a practicarse en Colombia, quedando pendiente la práctica de pruebas en el exterior, las cuales manifiestó el Juez de conocimiento que habian sido exhortadas sin que a la fecha las autoridades gubernamentales competentes hayan dado informe del trámite a las mismas.

Así, la defensora de derechos humanos LILIANY OBANDO VILLOTA tendrá que esperar una nueva citación de audiencia para conocer la suerte de la práctica de las pruebas en el exterior y presentar los alegatos finales antes de que se fije sentencia.

Mientras esto sucede, LILIANY seguirá injustamente privada de la libertad, alejada de sus hijos menores y su madre de avanzada edad, en contradicción al principio constitucional y penal de presunción de inocencia y a la dignidad humana.

Libertad Inmediata para LILIANY OBANDO VILLOTA, Defensora de Derechos Humanos Colombiana!!!

La Lucha Social no es un delito, es paso hacia la Libertad... Presxs Políticxs a la Calle!!!

Colombia, Enero 21 de 2011

Urgent action called in support of detained union leader Aracely Canaveral Velez

The following is a statement of facts from Colombian human rights organisation Beyond the Walls (in Spanish) and a call for people to demand the immediate release of Aracely Ca√Īaveral Velez from detention in Colombia

Acci√≥n urgente: Solidaridad con Aracely Ca√Īaveral Velez, dirigente sindical y social detenida arbitrariamente en colombia

La "Campa√Īa Traspasa los Muros" DENUNCIA la detenci√≥n arbitraria de la dirigente sindical y social ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL VELEZ y solicitamos Comunidad Nacional e Internacional emitir sus pronunciamientos de rechazo a esta grave violaci√≥n a los derechos a la libertad y a la oposici√≥n pol√≠tica.


1.¬†¬† El 17 de enero de 2011, en la ciudad de Medell√≠n, departamento de Antioquia, la dirigente sindical y social ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL VELEZ fue detenida por ordenes de la Fiscal√≠a 5¬™ Especializada de Cartagena (Bol√≠var), sin que se le ofreciera informaci√≥n sobre las razones por las cuales era privada de la libertad, √ļnicamente le manifestaron que ser√≠a trasladada a la ciudad de Cartagena, a unos 703 Kil√≥metros de distancia, ¬†lugar donde se encuentra un proceso penal en su contra.

2.¬†¬† El 18 de enero de 2011, a tempranas horas de la ma√Īana, ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL VELEZ fue trasladada a la ciudad de Cartagena, donde le informaron a su abogado que se encontraba detenida por los delitos de concierto para delinquir agravado y tr√°fico de drogas, por lo que ser√≠a sometida a juicio.


ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL V√ČLEZ ha sido dirigente sindical por m√°s de 20 a√Īos, ejerciendo su liderazgo en el Sindicato de Trabajadores de Confecciones Leonisa S.A. (SINTRALEONISA), el Sindicato de la Industria Textil de Colombia (SINTRATEXTIL) y en el Sindicato informal ASOTRACOMERCIANT filial de la Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT).

ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL V√ČLEZ tambi√©n se ha caracterizado por ser una l√≠der social comprometida en la educaci√≥n y formaci√≥n de los sectores sociales, populares y sindicales.

En el √°mbito familiar, debemos resaltar que ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL V√ČLEZ es madre cabeza de hogar de una menor de edad y est√° a cargo del cuidado de su madre de avanzada edad, quienes residen en la ciudad de Medell√≠n.


La detenci√≥n de ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL V√ČLEZ es arbitraria porque constituye un montaje judicial con fines de perseguir a la oposici√≥n pol√≠tica en Colombia y estigmatizar el ejercicio de la organizaci√≥n sindical y social, basada en testimonios de ‚Äúinformantes reinsertados‚ÄĚ y pruebas ilegales.

Este caso no es aislado, puesto que recientemente tambi√©n fueron detenidos arbitrariamente en las ciudades de C√ļcuta y Bucaramanga los l√≠deres estudiantiles y defensores de Derechos Humanos del sector gremial de los trabajadores informales ANGYE GAONA, JULIAN ANDONI DOM√ćNGUEZ Y WILLIAM RIVERA RUEDA, quienes tambi√©n fueron trasladados a la ciudad de Cartagena, donde se encuentra el proceso penal.

La vinculaci√≥n de estos l√≠deres -que han ejercido la oposici√≥n pol√≠tica- a procesos penales bajo¬†los delitos comunes de ‚Äúconcierto para delinquir y tr√°fico de drogas‚ÄĚ obedece a la estrategia institucional de desconocer las figuras penales conocidas como ‚Äúdelitos pol√≠ticos‚ÄĚ y en consecuencia ‚Äúla existencia de prisioneros/as pol√≠ticos/as en Colombia‚ÄĚ, cerrando las posibilidades de aplicar el art√≠culo 201 de la constituci√≥n nacional, la celebraci√≥n de acuerdos especiales o humanitario y la salida negociada al conflicto pol√≠tico, social y armado colombiano.


1.¬†¬† Que la Fiscal√≠a General de la Naci√≥n CESE LOS MONTAJES JUDICIALES contra la OPOSICION POLITICA EN COLOMBIA, basados en testimonios de ‚Äúinformantes reinsertados‚ÄĚ y dem√°s pruebas ilegales.

2.¬†¬† Que se ordene la libertad inmediata de la Prisionera Pol√≠tica de Conciencia ARACELY CA√ĎAVERAL V√ČLEZ.

3.¬†¬† Que el Gobierno Colombiano RECONOZCA la existencia de Prisioneros/as Pol√≠ticos/as y exprese la voluntad de pol√≠tica celebrar un acuerdo humanitario como primer paso en la b√ļsqueda de la soluci√≥n negociada al conflicto pol√≠tico, social y armado.

4.   Que la comunidad nacional e internacional y las organizaciones solidarias RESPALDEN esta ACCION URGENTE y envíen sus pronunciamientos a las siguientes autoridades:


Presidencia de la Rep√ļblica

Carrera 8 No.7-26, Palacio de Nari√Īo - Bogot√°, D.C.

Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71




Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia


Carrera 9a. No. 14-10 - Bogot√°, D.C.

PBX (+57) 444 31 00 Ext. 1820



Fiscal General de la Nación

Diagonal 22B No. 52-01  - Bogotá, D.C.

Teléfonos: 570 20 00 - 414 90 00



Defensor Nacional del Pueblo

Calle 55 # 10-32, Bogot√°

Fax: (+571) 640.04.91





Calle 114 No. 9-45 Torre B Oficina 1101

Edificio Teleport Bussines Park ‚Äď Bogot√°, Colombia

Teléfono PBX (57-1) 629 3636 (57-1) 629 3636 Fax (57-1) 629 3637


Bogot√°, Colombia

Enero 19 de 2011

La Lucha social no es un delito, es un paso hacia la Libertad...



Favor difundir esta Acción Urgente





A campaign for Freedom!

Free all Political Prisoners!