Judgment Nº CCPR/C/129/D/2931/2017 from United Nations of Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, 21-07-2021

CourtOffice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Writing for the CourtAlberto Velásquez Echeverri
Judgment Date21 July 2021
Case OutcomeAdoption of views
Admissibility Date21 July 2020
Subjectadmissibility - exhaustion of domestic remedies,admissibility - same matter,competent, independent and impartial tribunal,discrimination,equality before the law,liberty of person,presumption of innocence,right to appeal,security of person
Submitted Date01 August 2016

United Nations

CCPR/C/129/D/2931/2017

International Covenant on Civil and Political R ights

Distr.: General

14 December 2020

English

Original: Spanish

Human Rights Committee

Views adopted by the Committee under article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, concerning communication No. 2931/2017 * , **

Communication submitted by :Alberto Velásquez Echeverri (represented by counsel, Víctor Javier Mosquera Marín)

Alleged victim:The author

State party:Colombia

Date of communication:1 August 2016

Document references:Decision taken pursuant to rule 92 of the Committee’s rules of procedure, transmitted to the State party on 11 January 2017 (not issued in document form)

Date of adoption of Views:21 July 2020

Subject matter:Conviction of the former Director of the Administrative Department of the Office of the President in sole instance by the highest judicial body

Procedural issues:Examination of the matter under another procedure of international investigation or settlement; exhaustion of domestic remedies

Substantive issues:Right to due process; right to a hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal; right to be presumed innocent; right to have a conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal; equality before the law; right to liberty and security of person; right to freedom from discrimination

Articles of the Covenant:2; 3; 9 (1); 14 (1), (2), (3) (a)–(c) and (e), (5) and (7); and 26

Articles of the Optional Protocol:2, 3 and 5 (2) (b)

1.1The author of the communication is Alberto Velásquez Echeverri, a national of Colombia born in 1949. He claims that the State party has violated his rights under articles 2, 3, 9 (1), 14 (1), (2), (3) (a)–(c) and (e), (5) and (7), and 26 of the Covenant. The author is represented by counsel. The Optional Protocol entered into force for the State party on 29 October 1969.

1.2On 1 August 2016, the Committee, acting through its Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures, decided not to issue a request for interim measures in respect of the author under rule 94 of the Committee’s rules of procedure.

1.3On 8 February 2017, the Committee, acting through its Special Rapporteur on new communications and interim measures, agreed to issue a request for interim measures in the form of permission to remain under house arrest, as sought by the author, under rule 94 of the Committee’s rules of procedure.

Factual background

2.1Between 7 August 2002 and 19 July 2004, during the Administration of President Álvaro Uribe, the author held the post of Director of the Administrative Department of the Office of the President of the Republic of Colombia.

2.2Between 2 and 4 June 2004, the First Committee of the House of Representatives approved bill No. 267, which made it possible for the then President, Álvaro Uribe, to be re-elected. On 7 June 2004, Congressman Germán Navas Talero filed a complaint with the Supreme Courtagainst Congresswoman Yidis Medina Padilla for the offence of bribery. On 23 February 2005, the Supreme Court issued a refusal order and the investigation was closed.

2.3In March and April 2008, two press articles were published in which Ms. Medina Padilla admitted that she had been bribed by the author of the communication and other senior officials to vote in favour of bill No. 267 of 2004 in exchange for official privileges. As a result of these articles, on 10 April 2008 the Supreme Court decided to revoke the refusal order of 23 February 2005 and initiated criminal proceedings against former Congresswoman Yidis Medina Padilla, who was eventually convicted of taking bribes, in an advanced ruling handed down on 26 June 2008, after she confessed to having accepted a promise of payment from the author and other senior officials in exchange for voting in favour of bill No. 267, which provided for presidential re-election.

2.4On 14 May 2008, on the basis of the information that Ms. Medina Padilla had provided to the media, the Counsel General’s Office initiated an ex officio disciplinary investigation in respect of the author of the communication. He was exonerated in an administrative decision issued on 16 March 2009.

2.5On 8 May 2008, the Supreme Court transferred the contents of the file relating to Ms. Medina Padilla to the Attorney General’s Office so that, if it considered it appropriate, it could launch a criminal investigation in respect of the author of the communication. On 13 June 2008, the then Attorney General recused himself from the case. On 23 June 2008, the then Deputy Attorney General took over as head of the criminal investigation concerning the author and other senior officials and, on 8 November 2010, ordered the closure of the investigation.

2.6On 19 January 2011, the new Deputy Attorney General in turn recused himself from the case. On 6 April 2011, the Supreme Court accepted his recusal and instructed the new Attorney General to continue with the relevant proceedings. On 23 August 2011, she declared null and void all aspects of the proceedings from the closure of the investigation onward, on the basis that the Deputy Attorney General lacked the authority to make that decision.

2.7On 7 February 2012, under Legislative Act No. 06 of 24 November 2011, the then Attorney General delegated the investigation, prosecution and participation in the trial relating to the case to Prosecutor No. 6 assigned to the Supreme Court.

2.8On 6 March 2012, Prosecutor No. 6 reassessed the evidence provided in the pretrial proceedings and indicted the author for the alleged offence of giving or offering a bribe, noting as aggravating circumstances the distinguished position he held and the fact that he had acted with others, and as a mitigating circumstance the fact that he had no criminal record. The case was subsequently referred to the Supreme Court for trial.

2.9On 8 March 2012, the author filed a request for review of the criminal charges with Prosecutor No. 6 and on 12 March 2012 he requested an extension of the legal deadline for substantiation of his request for review. On 13 March 2012, Prosecutor No. 6 refused the extension. On the same date, the author filed a request for annulment of the charges arising from the reassessment of evidence on the ground that the Specialized Prosecutor lacked jurisdiction under the law in force at the time. On 2 May 2012, Prosecutor No. 6 upheld the criminal charges listed in the indictment. On 28 August 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the case to be joined with those of two other senior officials. On 4 September 2012, the author requested that the order joining the proceedings be revoked. On 19 April 2013, the Supreme Court denied the request for review of the charges and rejected the request to revoke the order joining the proceedings. With respect to the annulment requested owing to the case being delegated to the Specialized Prosecutor, the Supreme Court reiterated that the indictment dealt with that issue and contained an explanation of the reasons why the said Prosecutor should decide whether there was sufficient evidence to bring charges.

2.10On 5 July 2013, one of the other defendants in the same criminal case as the author filed a petition for amparo with the Criminal Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office, citing his rights to due process and to have the investigation and prosecution conducted by the natural judge in accordance with the laws in force at the time of the events. On 21 May 2015, the Constitutional Courtrejected his petition, arguing that it had not been demonstrated that the alleged irregularity had been brought to the attention of the relevant authority within the appropriate procedural time frame.

2.11On 15 April 2015, the Criminal Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court, ruling in sole instance, found the author of the communication guilty of co-perpetrating the offence of giving or offering bribes and sentenced him to 60 months’ imprisonment, a fine of 83.5 times the statutory minimum monthly wage and 84 months’ disqualification from the exercise of public rights and duties.

2.12The author claims that domestic remedies have been exhausted since, as stated in the sole instance judgment of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, no appeal is possible. In addition, the author reports that on 27 October 2015 he lodged a petition for amparo with the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court on the ground that the conviction violated his right to due process and the principle of in dubio pro reo. On 11 November 2015, the Civil Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court rejected his petition for amparo.

2.13The author also indicates that, in a judgment of 29 October 2014, the Constitutional Court urged Congress to introduce comprehensive legislation establishing the right to challenge all convictions, within one year of...

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