Case History: David Ravelo Crespo
On Tuesday, 20 June 2017, Colombian human rights defender, David Ravelo Crespo, walked out of prison, after 7 years of incarceration. He will continue to fight his legal battles to clear his name and prove that the charges and conviction against him were manufactured to silence him and his human rights work on behalf of some of Colombia’s most persecuted and victimised citizens.
David Ravelo Crespo, a prominent Colombian human rights defender, is the secretary of the Board of Directors of the Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CREDHOS (Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights), a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in Colombia.
- 20 June 2017 : David Ravelo Crespo released on parole after almost 7 years in prison
- 23 September 2015 : Joint declaration: international organisations express concern on the 5th anniversary of the detention of David Ravelo Crespo
- 18 June 2015 : Human rights violations in South America: ‘Through my words and poetry, I can transcend these prison walls’
- 11 March 2014 : International organisations request that attention be paid to the case against David Ravelo Crespo
- 13 September 2013 : Blog post - How many Nights without seeing the Stars?
- 13 September 2013 : Joint Declaration by International Organisations Expressing Concern on the 3rd Anniversary of the detention of David Ravelo Crespo.
- 21 February 2013 : Blog post - Colombia: a voice that won't be silenced
- 10 December 2012 : Joint Statement released expressing grave concerns with the conviction of David Ravelo Crespo, Colombian human rights defender
- 7 December 2012 : Human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo sentenced to 18 years imprisonment
- 30 November 2012 : New irregularity in the trial of human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo
- 1 June 2012 : David Ravelo Crespo awaits verdict following closing remarks in trial
- 29 September 2010 : Threats against the family of detained human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo
- 17 September 2010 : Human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo detained and currently being held in Bogotá
- 10 June 2010 : Death threats against human rights defender Mr David Ravelo Crespo
On 20 June 2017, human rights defender, David Ravelo Crespo, was released on parole after almost 7 years of incarceration.
On 20 June 2017, the human rights defender was set free on parole after almost 7 years in prison. David Ravelo Crespo had been detained since the 14 September 2010, when he was unfairly accused of an aggravated homicide committed in 1991. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. During his trial several organizations raised concerns about the due process of law and the guarantee of a fair trial. Two key prosecution witnesses were former paramilitaries and had themselves previously been given jail terms because of their involvement in human rights abuses in Barrancabermeja, and were given a reduced sentence as a reward for their evidence against the human rights defender.
David Ravelo Crespo was released according to the Amnesty Law (Law 1820) approved on 30 December 2016 by the Colombian government. The new legislation establishes the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, following the peace deal signed between the Colombian authorities and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) rebels in November 2016. The human rights defender’s case will be reviewed by the Revision Section of the Peace Tribunal. He was released pending the final decision of the tribunal.
Front Line Defenders remains concerned about the situation for human rights defenders in Colombia. Although the Colombian government signed the peace deal, this has not made the country safer for human rights activists. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the government continues to maintain the position that killings of human rights defenders are neither systematic nor linked to paramilitary activity, and refuses to recognise the cause of the deaths and take actions to prevent them from happening.
According to a report from the Colombian Ombudsman Office, 156 social leaders and human rights defenders have been killed in the past number of months. Additionally, five disappearances, 33 attacks and over 500 threats were reported. According to the Ombudsman, Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera: “one of the main causes of this phenomenon is the attempt by illegal armed groups to occupy the territory from which the FARC have withdrawn”.
Front Line Defenders welcomes the release of David Ravelo Crespo, as it believes that the case brought against him was based on fabricated charges and originated only due to his work in defence of human rights. Front Line Defenders urges the Colombian government to ensure that his sentence is rescinded. Front Line Defenders further calls on the Colombian government to ensure the protection of human rights defenders throughout the country, especially in light of the increased violence in the wake of the peace agreements.
On 14 September 2010, renowned human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo was detained. On the fifth anniversary of his detention, several international organisations including Front Line Defenders have issued a joint declaration, to express serious concerns about a series of irregularities with the proceedings of the trial which resulted in his conviction and sentencing to 220 months in prison.
David Ravelo Crespo is the secretary-general of the Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos —CREDHOS (Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights).
Human rights defender David Ravelo was accused of masterminding the 1991 murder of David Núñez Cala, public official of Barrancabermeja. In light of sentences in first and second instances condemning him to 220 months in prison (more than18 years), Mr. Ravelo and his lawyers lodged a casation appeal.
However, this was declared inadmissible by the Supreme Court of Justice in February 2015. Currently, an application has been filed in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) and is in the information gathering phase. Amongst the numerous irregularities denounced throughout the process, Mr. Ravelo's lawyers highlighted the illegitimacy of the public prosecutor who led the investigation, Mr William Gildardo Pacheco Granados, who before becoming a public prosecutor was a Lieutenant in the National Police force of Armenia (Quindío, Colombia).
Mr. Pacheco was investigated by the Office of the General of Colombia and subsequently removed from office for his involvement in the forceful disappearance of Guillermo Hurtado Parra in Armenia (Quindío, Colombia), in events which took place in 1991. Later, in November 1993, Mr Pacheco was condemned to a year in prison by the Superior Military Tribunal. According to Colombian law, these events disqualify him from exercising any role in the public prosecutor's office. In light of this situation, and given that Guillermo Hurtado Parra is still missing, on 23 April 2014, a criminal lawsuit was filed against Mr. Pacheco Granados and later the public prosecutor's office cited him to make a judicial declaration.
Mr Ravelo's defense also denounces that the case against him is primarily based on statements by two demobilised paramilitaries (Mario Jaimes Mejía alias el “Panadero” and Fremio Sánchez), who were convicted for serious crimes committed in the city of Barrancabermeja (amongst which stand out the massacres on 16 May 1998 and 28 February 1999) as a result of incidents denounced Mr. Ravelo himself. Because of these and other denunciations, the two paramilitaries declared Mr Ravelo a “military target”. Furthermore, the other accused in the case, Orlando Noguera, denounced in the preparatory hearing that Mario Jaimer Mejía alias “El Panadero” and Fremio Sánchez “tried to bribe him so that he would accept the charge for the murder of Núñez Cala and blame Mr Ravelo in exchange for benefits under the Justice and Peace law”.
In this regard, we stress that the Prosecutor General's office charged Mario Jaimer Mejía alias “El Panadero”, for false testimony, for having accused the ex-Congresswoman Aristides Andrade as another author of the homicide which David Ravelo is condemned for. In bringing charges against Jaimes Mejía, the public prosecutor cites various statements that – in his judgement – cast doubt on the statements given by the ex-paramilitary leader and that “they were sufficient to try him for false testimony”. The first hearing against alias “El Panadero” for false testimony took place on 9 February 2015, the process is now in the trial stage and currently David Ravelo has been recognised as a victim in this case.
Since David Ravelo's detention, national and international NGOs as well as United Nations bodies have raised awareness regarding his case and the lack of due process by international standards. This included the presentation of two amicus curiae related to Ravelo's proceedings and sentence which, among other considerations, concluded the proceedings null and, that in any case, David Ravelo should be absolved, since “David Ravelo's sentence was contrary to the evidence in this case, which demonstrate his innocence.”
As non-governmental organizations and international networks we have followed up on this case very closely and have expressed on numerous occasions our concern for these and other irregularities indicated by Mr. Ravelo's defense lawyers. As a result, we deeply regret that, in spite of expressing concern on numerous occasions for theguarantees of due process, including the right to a legitimate defense and a fair trial, the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the Appeal Study requesting the granting of fair and impartial process for this human rights defender, including all of the guaranties that up until now have been denied.
As a result, we hope that the Colombian justice system will act promptly in the other two legal processes mentioned against Mario Jaimes Mejía and William Gildardo Pacheco Granados, and that due process is fully respected. Finally, we call upon the IACHR to consider the concerns expressed and facilitate the study of this case.
This article was published in The Solicitors Journal on 18 June 2015.
The Republic of Ireland's former deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, reflects on an eye-opening meeting with a human rights defender, persecuted for his work in Colombia
David Ravelo Crespo is a human rights defender in Colombia, targeted because he challenged the climate of impunity that prevails in the country, and which has led to thousands of deaths. He is an innocent man, serving an 18-year prison sentence on the basis of trumped up charges, following a trial that can only be described as a legal charade.
One of the main reasons for my visit is that the Front Line Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights defenders, sees David's case as emblematic of many of the issues confronting human rights defenders in Colombia - threats, criminalisation, denial of justice, and collusion on the part of many state agencies.
David has been targeted, by the legal system, for specific reasons. He has consistently and vociferously spoken out about the links between the government of president Uribe and paramilitary groups. He has refused to be silent. He has refused to leave his native province of Barrancabermeja, and above all else, because he has refused to allow himself to be killed.
Violation of legal guarantees
David has been detained since 14 September 2010, when he was accused of an aggravated homicide committed in 1991. In any trial of such national sensitivity it is of fundamental importance that certain legal guarantees relating to due process and the right to a fair trial are respected. Yet these guarantees have been repeatedly violated during the legal process against David.
The two key prosecution witnesses had themselves previously been given jail terms because of their involvement in massacres and other human rights abuses. In fact they had been given a reduced sentence as a reward for their evidence against David.
The prosecutor, William Pacheco Granados of Colombia's National Counter Terrorism Unit, was removed from a previous post due to his alleged involvement in the disappearance of William Hurtado Parra in Armenia in 1991. Should this have automatically precluded his involvement in the case?
Additionally, the defence was frequently prevented from presenting evidence which would have undermined the case against David, while the prosecution were routinely allowed to present evidence which should have been excluded.
David has campaigned for human rights for more than 30 years and has become the voice of human rights in the Barrancabermeja province. It is apparent that the trial against David had one clear goal - to silence him. This it has failed to do.
In Bogotá we met Reynaldo Villalba Vargas, David's lawyer and a member of the 'Jose Alvear Restrepo' lawyers' collective, before heading towards La Picota Prison. After going through the laborious process of pre-approval, approval, questioning of the approval, and then final approval, we were granted security passes.
David greeted us with a beaming smile and an affectionate hug. He set out some plastic chairs and offered us a cup of coffee. Whether it was a member of staff or another inmate who brought us the coffee was hard to tell, with everyone wearing normal street clothes; it was almost possible to forget that the setting for our meeting was indeed a prison.
Despite the 18-year sentence, the array of irregularities prior to and during legal proceedings, and the fact that all domestic legal channels have now been exhausted, David is a remarkably positive man whose strength of character is demonstrated by his confidence and personal warmth.
He showed us the business cards left by various MEPs and EU officials who had visited him. Giving him my own card I assured him that I would follow up with these European colleagues on his case after I left.
David outlined three requests that he wanted me to make on his behalf in our upcoming meetings with the Presidential Programme on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the attorney general, and the ministry of the interior:
He would like to be transferred from Bogotá to a prison in Barrancabermeja where he can be closer to his family, including a young daughter he has never met;
He believes an investigation unit should be established to look into the use of false testimonies in trials, not just in his own case but in all cases where this common practice has been used; and
He would like guarantees that due process and justice will be applied in the criminal cases against the prosecutor Pacheco, for his involvement in a forced disappearance, and against Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias 'El Panadero', for providing false testimony against him.
After about an hour together we said our goodbyes. With another warm hug and a handshake we headed back to the city, as David returned to his prison cell that he shares with a judge who has been convicted on bribery charges.
The power of words
The following day, in our meeting with attorney general Eduardo Montealegre Lynett, he wrapped up proceedings by expressing his love of Irish literature. It seemed natural to highlight the important lessons we can learn from the persecution of Joyce and Wilde.
Across the globe, great minds and voices continue to face oppression, criminalisation, and levels of danger that force them to leave their home or even their country, either temporarily or permanently. This brought to mind David's own words: 'It's not sad... What they have done to me is very painful, but in here, through my words and poetry, I can transcend these prison walls.'
As I reflect on my closing chat with the attorney general, and the fact that we had brought David Spanish-language copies of Joyce's Dubliners, and a book of Seamus Heaney's poems, I am conscious of the vastly different lives and worlds of two men with a shared love for the power of words.
On 11th of February last year, the follow up of the demand for annulment of the judicial process against the human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo, member of the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights in Magdalena Medio (CREDHOS), from the city of Barrancabermeja, was filed before the High Court of Bucaramanga (Santander).
In a number of occasions, the International NGOs and networks who have signed below have reiterated concerns regarding a series of irregularities throughout the proceedings which resulted in the conviction of Mr Ravelo and his 220 month prison sentence.
David Ravelo Crespo has been detained since the 14th of September 2010, when he was accused of an aggravated homicide committed in 1991. We believe that in a legal system, it is of fundamental importance that certain legal guarantees relating to due process and the right to a fair trial are respected. According to objections these guarantees have been repeatedly violated during the legal process against David Ravelo. For this reason we question the conviction of David Ravelo and reiterate that David Ravelo has not received the rights and guarantees according to national and international legal norms. Consequently we believe that the case against David Ravelo has been corrupted, therefore he should be released from detention and receive a fair and impartial trial that provides all the guarantees that have been denied.
Since Mr. Ravelo Crespo has been detained, national and international bodies have highlighted his case and the lack of compliance with national and international standards of due process. On 4 September 2013, the presented an Amicus Curiae in the case of David Ravel Crespo before the Superior Court of Santander (Colombia). Amongst other considerations the amicus curiae, concludes that the Judiciary should declare the process invalid and that David Ravelo should be absolved because “the conviction of Mr Ravelo was contradictory to the weight of evidence that in this case showed his innocence“.
According to defense lawyers, these irregularities have undermined the defense of Mr. Ravelo Crespo and the integrity of the subsequent conviction. Among these irregularities, lawyers denounce the legitimacy of the prosecutor who led the investigation: Prosecutor William Pacheco Granados, from the Prosecutor’s Office no. 22 of the National Counter Terrorism Unit. Mr Pacheco Granados was previously a lieutenant in the National Police in Armenia (Quindío, Colombia) and was investigated by the Inspector General's Office (Procuraduría). He was subsequently removed from his post by this authority as a result of his alleged involvement in the disappearance of William Hurtado Parra in Armenia in 1991.
Furthermore the defense team for David Ravelo argues that current legal process is equivalent to a reformulation of previous charges that David Ravelo has already been cleared of, such as the claim that as a member of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, he ordered the assassination of Nuñez Cala. We reiterate that David Ravelo was imprisoned for 27 months between 1993 and 1995 accused of rebellion, he was tried and cleared of all charges in the first and second stage of proceedings and furthermore he later won compensation from the state for arbitrary detention.
As International NGOs and Networks we urge that the Colombian authorities order that David Ravelo be released immediately as well as the admission and processing in a transparent and effective way of the Cassation appeal put forward by Mr. Ravelo's defense team.We also urge that all irregularities that have been mentioned since the detention of David Ravelo be investigated and sanctioned according to Colombian Law and relevant international legal standards.
This blog post was written by Adam Shapiro, Head of Campaigns
The road out of central Bogota heading to the outskirts and La Picota Prison was fairly empty for a Friday morning. Perhaps it was the early hour or just that it was Friday and it is always harder to get out of bed just before the weekend. When the taxi reached the dirt road leading to the back entrance of the compound our driver announced “Nosotros aquí” (“We’re here”) with a tone of complete apathy.
La Picota Prison houses David Ravelo Crespo, a Colombian human rights defender who was 2 days short of having served 3 years in detention and prison since his arrest on murder charges. The case is largely based on ‘testimony’ given by a convicted paramilitary leader (who had previously been accused by David of grave human rights abuses). This testimony was given in exchange for a reduced sentence (by more than half). Front Line Defenders has been advocating and campaigning on David’s case since his arrest, and this was the first time someone from the organization would be meeting him behind bars.
The night before, David’s friends, colleagues and family gathered at the Autonomous University of Colombia to celebrate his life, his struggle for human rights and to remember their friend on the third anniversary of his detention. In addition to being a human rights defender, David was also a member of the Union Patriotica, and survived a wave of political killings in the early 1990s that many refer to as one of the first cases of political genocide in the Americas. The people in the room had collectively suffered tremendously over the years, and David’s incarceration seemed a cruel blow, yet expected at the same time.
I presented David Ravelo Gutierrez, son of David Ravelo Crespo, with a plaque from Front Line Defenders in recognition of his father’s standing as one of five finalists for the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. David was the finalist representing the Americas region and the recognition that night brought out some of Colombia’s press to cover the event. With magistrates currently reviewing David’s appeal, Front Line Defenders felt that bringing any additional public pressure on the case could help sway the political and judicial forces.
To that end, I was also in Colombia to launch a public service announcement (PSA) campaign on Canal Capital, Bogota’s highly respected public television station. The first PSA focused on David’s case, and included a webcast on the campaign website and petition for the public to sign.
Inside the prison section for public functionaries, I briefed David on the efforts being made on his behalf. He was greatly appreciative and moved by all that was being done, and was confident that the efforts of so many would yield justice in his case. He was strong and assertive, and read us three of his recent poems. He made sure to let me know that when he was freed, he would come to Dublin to meet all his friends at Front Line Defenders and see that part of the world. For someone who has received solidarity and support from all over the globe, David Ravelo Crespo has never left Colombia. And while his body may be behind bars, his mind is free and he is determined to achieve justice – not just in his case, but for all the victims of violence, the displaced, the targeted and the marginalized.
On 14 September 2010, renowned human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo was detained. Ahead of the third anniversary a joint declaration has been issued by a group of 24 international organisations including Front Line Defenders, expressing serious concerns about a series of irregularities with the proceedings of the trial which resulted in his conviction and sentencing to 220 months in prison.
Chief amongst the irregularities highlighted by the declaration is the legitimacy of the prosecutor who led the investigation, Prosecutor William Pacheco Granados.
Mr William Pacheco Granados was previously a Lieutenant in the National Police in Armenia and was investigated by the Inspector ́s General Office He was subsequently removed from his post by this authority as a result of his alleged involvement in the disappearance of William Hurtado Parra in Armenia, in the Department of Quindio in 1991.
In November 1993, Mr William Pacheco Granados was sentenced to one year in prison by a military Court. According to Colombian law, this disqualifies him from the exercise of any future employment in the prosecution service. On 23 April 2013, a criminal complaint was filed against him for his involvement in this case of enforced disappearance. In July 2013, Mr Pacheco Granados resigned; however, the Attorney General has still not ruled on the issue of his disqualification.
In addition to this the declaration highlights that David Ravelo Crespo is an internationally renowned human rights defender. He has won several awards including the San Pedro Claver Award from the Diocese of Barrancabermeja in 2009 and was one of the six finalists for the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders. Furthermore, in 2013 he has been nominated for the National Human Rights Defenders Awards in Colombia and CREDHOS has been nominated for the 2013 Human Rights Award for the city of Weimar (Germany).
The following guest blog post describes a visit to human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo in prison by Peace Brigades International volunteer Niamh Ni Bhriain, a former Frank Jennings Intern with Front Line Defenders.
The bright sunshine and the unusually clear blue sky above Bogotá contrasted sharply with the greyness and gloom of La Picota prison located in the far south of the city. The prison guards shuffled through papers, recorded our names, took fingerprints, and reviewed our prison pass, before granting us access to the wing in which David Ravelo Crespo is being held.
I had first heard of David when I began interning with Front Line Defenders in October 2010 and now as a Peace Brigades International (PBI) field volunteer I would have the opportunity to meet him. Although part of me is excited to finally meet this charismatic human rights defender, I am also filled with regret that although we have been working on his case for over two years he is still in prison.
The mundane prison patio suddenly comes to life when the prisoners see my colleague and I standing outside the prison wing gate. Dozens of voices begin to shout up through the crowded balconies and stairway “David Ravelo, David Ravelo…”. We wait a few moments while the prisoners continue to call anxiously, and then from the busy stairway a humble man approaches the prison gate with a warm smile, a spring in his step, and books under his arm. He greets us with a hug, a heartfelt handshake, and tells us in a friendly familiar voice how great it is to see us. He immediately arranges for a prison guard to bring us coffee and invites us to sit outside the grey prison wing on the grass, from where you can see and hear the bustling outside world go by. The houses extend into the hills surrounding Bogotá, the traffic rushes past on the motorway nearby, the cows lazily graze in the grass, and although there may be an illusion of freedom sitting here under the hot sun, the hostile barbed wire fence surrounding us quickly shatters it, reminding us that we are in a prison.
David discusses his case, his family, the human rights situation in Barrancabermeja, we mention the nomination for the Front Line Defenders award, and his face lights up. He appears to be thrilled to have been selected amongst the other finalists. He then moves on to discuss literature; he tells us he has been reading a lot in prison. We discuss Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Julio Cortazar among other writers. He shows us poetry he has written, using this as an outlet to express himself.
He is defiant that even from inside the prison he will never be silenced, raising his voice in the defence of human rights. I find myself in awe of this man who has been in prison for over two years and instead of complaining, he focuses on the positive side of things. There is an appeal coming up and therefore more work to be done to ensure that his freedom is secured. There is no bitterness or sadness in his voice, just hope and optimism about what lies ahead.
After leaving David I find myself very moved and touched by the strength of his character. It’s hard to understand how an innocent man can be held like this. It’s equally difficult to comprehend how he continues to smile in the face of such conditions. Since David is adamant that he won’t be silenced, we must do all we can to ensure his voice is heard, highlighting his struggle for justice in this crucial period leading up to his appeal.
On 10 December 2012, International Human Rights Day, a joint statement was issued by a collection of international NGOs and networks including Front Line Defenders. The statement raises concerns on behalf of the Colombian human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo who has been sentenced to 18 years in jail on charges of aggravated homicide.
The statement highlights a series of 'grave concerns regarding a series of irregularities that have been reported during the trial' which his defence lawyers believe 'have undermined the defence of Mr. Ravelo Crespo and the integrity of the subsequent conviction.'
In addition to this concern is voiced over reported 'surveillance by unknown persons, as well as, an increase in the number of death threats against him and his family' since the Attorney Generals office opened their investigation into David Ravelo Crespo in 2008.
The letter finishes with the signatories pledging to 'continue to monitor the next phases of the judicial process urging full respect for due process and guarantees for the safety and security of David Ravelo Crespo, his family and his lawyers.'
On 7 December 2012, human rights defender Mr. David Ravelo Crespo was sentenced to 18 years and 3 months' imprisonment on charges of aggravated homicide following a lengthy trial marred with irregularities.
The human rights defender was arrested on 14 September 2010 and has remained in detention in La Picota prison since that time, awaiting the verdict that was delivered on 7 December despite the fact that the trial hearings had already ended on 18 May 2012.
David Ravelo Crespo's lawyer, Mr Alirio Uribe, has indicated he will appeal the verdict before the Tribunal of Santander. In an interview with the newspaper Vanguardia Liberal following the verdict, the human rights defender himself stated that despite the verdict, he would not give up. “I will take energy from this to continue to prove my innocence, and to show that all this has been a set-up. Officially, there is no evidence against me.”
On 22 November 2012, the latest in a series of worrying irregularities emerged in the trial of human rights defender Mr David Ravelo Crespo, whose time in detention now exceeds two and a half years. The public prosecutor in his trial is a former police officer who was reportedly investigated in connection to an enforced disappearance in 1991, and banned from public service for life as a consequence.
The human rights defender stands accused of aggravated murder and being one of the masterminds behind the killing of David Nuñez Cala, a local public official, in 1991. Mr William Galdardo Pacheco Granados, the public prosecutor in the trial, reportedly was found to have been involved in the enforced disappearance of a young man and consequently forced to resign from his post in the police.
Under Colombian law this should disqualify him from the exercise of any future employment in the prosecution service. Article 76 of Decree number 261/2000 states that: “whoever has been removed from any public office may not work as a public prosecutor, nor undertake any position in the prosecution service.”
This is only the latest in a series of revelations undermining the integrity of the human rights defender's trial. The evidence for the prosecution relies heavily on the testimonies of two former paramilitaries, who have accused David Ravelo Crespo of having ties to the FARC guerrilla movement. They feature among a total of three witnesses for the prosecution, while the defence claims that over thirty testimonies by inhabitants of the town of Barrancabermeja, where CREDHOS is based, were ignored despite the fact that they show statements by the prosecution witnesses to be false.
In addition to this, David Ravelo Crespo's defence lawyer has stated that the preparatory phase of the trial failed to consider some of the evidence and testimonies presented by the defence, while a witness gave a statement during that same phase of the trial that the two former paramilitaries had offered to bribe him into accepting the allegations against the human rights defender. The defence claims that the prosecution witnesses have on multiple occasions given false or contradictory statements while trying to incriminate David Ravelo Crespo.
David Ravelo Crespo was arrested on 14 September 2010 when Prosecution service 22 of the National Antiterrorism Unit in Bogotá ordered his arrest. He has been in detention in Picota prison since that time, and despite the fact that the trial hearings ended on 18 May 2012, he remains detained awaiting the verdict. Since the start of the investigation against him, in 2008, he has furthermore been targeted by ongoing threats against him and his family, as well as a defamatory pamphlet published on 30 October 2012, signed by a suspected paramilitary group, in which he and CREDHOS are accused of having ties with illegal armed groups.
The irregularities in the judicial process have attracted widespread condemnation, including a joint statement in March 2011 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Ms Gabriela Knaul and Ms Margaret Sekaggya respectively, in which they express their concern at David Ravelo Crespo's detention in the context of the increase in judicial actions against human rights defenders in Colombia.
The closing remarks have been heard in the trial of human rights defender, Mr David Ravelo Crespo, 18 months after his detention on a charge of aggravated murder.
Mr Alirio Uribe Muñoz, defence lawyer for David Ravelo Crespo, called for the human rights defender's acquittal highlighting the fact that throughout the trial there has been evidence of numerous changes and contradictions in the versions of events given by key prosecution witnesses, evidence of attempts to bribe witnesses and a sustained attempt to stigmatise the defendant.
David Ravelo Crespo was arrested on 14 September 2010 by members of the Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación de la Fiscalía – CTI (Technical Investigation Division of the District Attorney's office), and accused of the 1991 killing of the Secretary for Public Works of Barrancabermeja, Mr David Nuñez Cala. The charges came about as a result of accusations that were made against David Ravelo Crespo by members of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Santander y Cesar – AUSAC (Self-Defence Units of Santander and Cesar), Mr Mario Jaimes Mejía and Mr Fremio Sánchez Carreño.
In March 1999 the provincial courts found Mario Jaimes Mejía guilty for his involvement in two paramilitary massacres which took place in Barrancabermeja on 16 May 1998 and 28 February 1999. Under the Justice and Peace Law 975 of 2005, former paramilitaries can get reduced prison sentences in exchange for full confessions regarding their participation in paramilitary actions. Invoking this law in an attempt to reduce his 40-year sentence, Mario Jaimes Mejía has accused David Ravelo Crespo of instigating the murder of David Nuñez Cala.
During the preparatory hearing on the case, a prosecution witness claimed that Mario Jaimes Mejía and Fremio Sánchez Carreño attempted to bribe him into claiming responsibility for the killing and then incriminating David Ravelo Crespo in it, in exchange for some benefits through the Justice and Peace Law.
Furthermore, the defence claims that the charge sheet is based solely on the evidence of three prosecution witnesses, without making any reference to more than 30 testimonies from reputable persons from Barancabermeja who refute the charges.
On the night of 14 September 2010, following David Ravelo Crespo's arrest, his son was leaving his apartment when he noticed that a tall white man with a military haircut, wearing a black tracksuit, was watching him. The son boarded a public minibus, which the unknown man also boarded and continued to watch him. The son disembarked near the National University and managed to evade being followed any further.
The following morning David Ravelo Crespo's son received a phone call on his mobile phone. He heard the voice of what he believed was an older man saying, “el hijueputa de su papá se va a pudrir en la cárcel” (Your son of a bitch of a father is going to rot in jail). The man then hung up. His son immediately rang back the number from which the call had been made, but the phone appeared to be switched off.
On the morning of 16 September, David Ravelo Crespo's cousin, María Ravelo, who is also a human rights defender in Barrancabermeja, received a call on her mobile phone in which an unknown man warned her, “ahora sí van a sufrir en carne propia” (now you're all going to suffer personally).
On 17 September, at approximately 10.30am, David Ravelo Crespo's son received another call on his mobile phone from a different number, warning him that “si haced alguna bulla los vamos a matar” (if you create any uproar we're going to kill all of you).
In addition, on 14 September, following David Ravelo Crespo's arrest, the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), the Colombian intelligence agency, rang three of the human rights defender's security guards and summoned them to hand over their arms and vehicle that same day. The following day, the guards were re-assigned to another person in Barrancabermeja.
It has also been reported that on 25 August 2010, as David Ravelo Crespo's son returned to the neighbourhood where he lives, he was accosted by the occupants of a white Ford pick-up truck with tinted windows and without licence plates, who were parked at the corner of his house. Four unidentified men were inside the vehicle and, as David Ravelo Crespo's son passed by, the driver got out with a gun in his hand. Then two of the other occupants asked him if they could search him. The son went up to his apartment but looking through the window, he could see that the vehicle had pulled off.
On 14 September 2010, at 3:05 pm, David Ravelo Crespo was arrested by agents of the Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación de la Fiscalía – CTI (Technical Investigation Division of the District Attorney's office) in the city of Barrancabermeja. He was then brought under a heavy police guard to the airport and transferred to the city of Bogotá.
He is currently being held under the orders of District Attorney's office number 22 of the National Antiterrorism Unit on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and aggravated murder. The charges have been brought about as a result of accusations that have been made against him by a member of the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Santander y Cesar- AUSAC, Mario Jaimes Mejía.
In March 1999 the provincial courts found Mario Jaimes Mejía guilty for his involvement in two paramilitary massacres which took place in Barrancabermeja on 16 May 1998 and 28 February 1999. Under the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) 975 of 2005, former paramilitaries can get reduced prison sentences in exchange for full confessions regarding their participation in paramilitary actions. Invoking this law in an attempt to reduce his 40 year sentence Mario Jaimes Mejía has accused David Ravelo Crespo of instigating the murder of the Secretary for Public Works of Barrancabermeja David Nuñez Cala. During the trial David Ravelo Crespo's lawyers gave evidence that these claims were false and were the result of a sustained attempt to stigmatise the human rights defender. The penal investigation was being carried out in Barrancabermeja until the end of April 2009 when it was reassigned to office 22 of the Antiterrorism Unit.
The human rights defender had already received death threats on June 2010 and February 2008.
Human rights defender, Mr David Ravelo Crespo, Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Corporación Regional para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – CREDHOS (Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights), has been receiving a number of death threats, the most recent of which occurred on 3 June 2010.
On 3 June 2010, at approximately 22:00, David Ravelo Crespo's son received a phone call from a cellular telephone in which an unknown person informed him that they had just killed his father. On 28 May 2010 the human rights defender's mother in law received a phone call on her land-line during which she was warned that there was an order out for his murder. On 7 May 2010, at approximately 14:00, David Ravelo Crespo's son, who lives outside of Barrancabermeja as a result of the constant threats against his family, received a phone call from a cellular telephone and was told to prepare for his father's funeral.
On three occasions in April 2010 three individuals who are known to David Ravelo Crespo were approached by persons on a motorcycle who inquired as to the location of the human rights defender's home.
On 22 April 2010 Front Line issued an urgent appeal concerning death threats, claiming to be from the right-wing paramilitary group Los Rastrojos, against over 60 human rights organisations and human rights defenders. CREDHOS was one of the organisations named within this threat.
David Ravelo Crespo was granted precautionary security measures by the Inter-American Commission in 2000.