Ten years from the fact, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (CIDH) found the Colombian government guilty of the assassination of Jesús Maria Valle Jaramillo, an attorney and human rights defender of Medellín, in the north-western department of Antioquia.
The ruling, reminds the civil society Institute for People’s Empowerment (IPC), is the first handed down by the special tribunal of the Organisation of American States (OAS) against Colombia for the murder of a human rights activist. Valle was assassinated on February 27, 1998, when he presided the Permanent Committee for the defence of human rights of Antioquia, a post he assumed after the killing of his three predecessors, Héctor Gómez, Luis Vélez Vélez and Carlos Gónima.
Between 1994 and 1998, the attorney had publicly denounced the illegal activities of the ‘security cooperatives’ known as ‘Convivir’ – peasant self-defense groups formed in 1990 to contrast the guerrillas backed by the governor of Antioquia at the time, current President Alvaro Uribe.
Valle had on several occasions reported joint operations of the military and extreme right-wing paramilitary in the area of Ituango, scene to some of the most brutal civilian massacres for which CIDH convicted the state in 2006. Consequentially, reminds the civil society organisation, Valle was indicated as “an enemy of the armed forces” and led to his prosecution for “slander”; he was assassinated by a paramilitary group in his office 24 hours after giving a spontaneous testimony before a Medellín court.