Obstruction and theft of interview material with the testimony of the leader of the ‘Clan del Golfo’

The Swedish Foundation for Human Rights (MR-Fonden) expresses its concern about the severe events publicly denounced by the Truth Commission, which put at risk the integrity and lives of those who make up the Commission and victims’ right to the truth. We will continue to support the work carried out by the Commission, which we hope will be carried out without intimidation.

The Colombian Truth Commission published a statement denouncing the theft of digital recorders and a computer from the home of one of its investigators. The stolen material was used in the interview that Commissioner Alejandro Valencia Villa conducted with the former leader of Clan del Golfo, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, alias ‘Otoniel’, who had agreed to talk about the armed group’s relations with the public force.

The Truth Commission rejected what happened and asked the authorities to “diligently and effectively investigate the events.” Additionally, it demanded “guarantees” to continue with the interview with the former leader of the Clan del Golfo, the security of those who participate in the process, the privacy of the sessions and logistical support by those who have custody of the interviewee.

What happened reflects an escalation in the intimidation towards the Commission and its officials, as it was preceded by a series of inconveniences in accessing the testimony of alias ‘Otoniel’. Among these incidents is the interruption of his hearing with Commissioner Alejandro Valencia last Thursday, February 17, by members of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (‘DIJIN’) of the National Police. In a subsequent statement, the Commission stated “the need to have guarantees to receive his account with due confidentiality and privacy,” and the importance of completing the collection of the testimony of alias ‘Otoniel’, as he “was involved for 35 years in the armed conflict and linked to various illegal armed groups”, and has crucial information to understand the dynamics of the armed conflict and its persistence.

Regarding the stolen material, Commissioner Valencia affirmed that “the information is secured” since they have backup copies. Still, he requested to speed up the meetings with Mr Úsuga David “so that the information does not leave the country” since upon him weighs an extradition request from the United States. The Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Juliette de Rivero, also spoke about the events and urged the Colombian State to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the entire functioning and fulfilment of the Commission’s objectives.