The pull of ears to Legal Medicine and the Prosecutor’s Office for delay in delivery of remains
Photo: Mauricio Alvarado Lozada
Guadeloupe and her three children not only went through the horror of losing their father and husband due to the war, but also faced the delay of the judicial authorities for the delivery of their skeletal remains. It has been 11 years since the remains of Anthony, and so far, his family has not been able to bury him. They had to resort to a tutela action that was analyzed by the Constitutional Court, so that Legal Medicine and the Prosecutor’s Office would give them an answer. The high court agreed with them and gave guidelines to the entities.
On May 20, 2002, in the district of La Fortuna, municipality of Agua Clara, in Santander, Anthony forcibly disappeared. Four years later, Guadeloupe, his wife, reported the case to the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of the Prosecutor’s Office. During 2006, relatives of Anthony They recovered what they believed to be his remains and transferred them to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine. Until December 2010, the forensic body decided to take DNA samples from her three children to compare them and they agreed to notify the results.
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The case stayed there until Guadeloupe decided, in May of last year, to inquire not only about the status of the investigation into who was responsible for her husband’s death, but also about the DNA results. The woman promptly asked the Prosecutor for information on the statements made by the former members of the AUC before Justice and Peace, and Legal Medicine asked for the results of the samples, and if they were positive, the procedure to obtain the remains for their disposal. inhumation.
In May of last year, the Prosecutor’s Office replied that Anthony He is accredited as a victim of forced disappearance, based on a statement delivered by former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso in November 2020. Legal Medicine, for its part, said that, in August 2011, it was confirmed that Antonio’s remains did correspond to your loved one, and that information was provided to the prosecutor in the case. However, when he went to check the history, they found no record of that result or who the victim was.
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The outlook for Guadalupe seemed to get even more murky after she entered the Legal Medicine system to inquire about the file. She found that the remains of Anthony they had already been delivered. So, without knowing his whereabouts, and with several concerns to be resolved, the woman decided through a tutelage action to request the delivery of her husband’s remains, and that the rights to due process and access to the administration be protected. of Justice. In September of last year, a court admitted the appeal and granted Guadalupe protection.
What is striking is that 16 years have passed since the disappearance of Anthonyand so far, the court’s analysis is that the investigation into her death “has not been assigned to any prosecutor (…) In these circumstances, it evidenced the violation of the plaintiff’s right to due process because, despite the fact that the Institute National Institute of Legal Medicine has in its custody the remains of Anthony since December 29, 2006, the plaintiff did not receive a certain answer about her delivery to the Prosecutor’s Office in charge of the case. This omission also represented a disregard of his right of access to the administration of justice,” said the first instance tutelage ruling.
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The case was selected by the Constitutional Court, and by distribution, it reached the office of Judge Gloria Ortiz, who ratified the first instance decision and, in addition, ordered a series of guidelines that will culminate in the delivery of the remains of Anthony. The high court said that the various prosecutors’ offices that had and have jurisdiction to investigate the forced disappearance violated Guadalupe’s rights because they did not inform her of the progress and results of the investigation.
On the response of Legal Medicine, the high court considered that it delivered an “evasive” answer regarding the judicial authority to which it sent the result of the opinion that identified the remains. “The prosecutors did not initiate or inform the plaintiff of the process of restitution of the remains of her permanent companion (…) which prevented the plaintiff and her children from fulfilling their intention to bury them in accordance with their beliefs and provide them with the peace of mind that It implies starting the grieving process,” the sentence stated.
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The guardianship ruling also says that both Legal Medicine and the Prosecutor’s Office must adopt so that, in the event of the death of the forcibly disappeared person, their remains are found, their relatives can receive them in a dignified delivery and bury them in accordance with their beliefs, which which should happen in the shortest possible time. Likewise, it explained that keeping the next of kin in uncertainty about the whereabouts of their next of kin constituted a violation of their rights to the truth, to reparation, and not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
“The indirect victims of forced disappearance are holders of the right to reparation. A concrete manifestation of this fundamental prerogative is the guarantee of timely and dignified delivery of the remains of the disappeared person to their families. This delivery must take place as soon as possible and at no cost, after the filiation is verified”, the Court stressed and lamented that the dignified delivery of the remains that should have occurred in 2011 and that would end part of the anxiety of the plaintiff and her family, had not yet registered.
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With the latent violations of the rights of Guadeloupe and their three children, the Court gave the prosecutors in charge of the investigation 48 hours to deliver the progress made in the case file. Anthony. In addition, Legal Medicine must make the dignified delivery of their remains and activate the psychosocial care and comprehensive health program for victims in favor of women and carry out the pertinent actions so that those responsible for the disappearance are punished.
Forensic Medicine must, in a year, update the true information that is recorded on its page about the victims of forced disappearance so that their relatives can access it without deadlocks, as happened with Guadeloupe. In addition to that, the high court ordered copies to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate if there was any irregularity in the investigation, and if so, disciplinary sanctions be imposed on the officials in charge of the file.
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