Ivan Skafar is a volunteer legal advisor with the “Protection of Children, Women and Other Vulnerable Groups” project implemented by Lawyers without Borders Canada (LWBC) and the International Bureau for Children’s Rights as part of the volunteer cooperation program funded by Global Affairs Canada. The project focuses on improving the protection of the rights of children, women, and marginalized communities as well as on strengthening democracy and the rule of law through access to justice.
On September 5, 2019, a preliminary hearing was held in the criminal case of Julian Gil and two other students of the National University in Bogota. The prosecution and the defense presented their evidence to the court in order to determine its admissibility at the future trial. One of the defense lawyers is appealing the judge’s decision at this hearing that found a certain testimony to be inadmissible as evidence, which means that it could take months before the actual trial begins.
LWBC is observing the hearings in order to assure that the rights of the accused are respected and that Gil is provided with the fair trial that he is entitled to.
Who is Julian Gil?
Julian Andrés Gil Reyes was born on august 11, 1986, in Bogota, Colombia. He is a graduate of philosophy from the National Pedagogic University.
Gil has a strong history of community work and social activism. He has provided psychosocial accompaniment to victims of ‘false positives’ (please consult my previous blog post Massacre de Potrerito Ibagué : Des militaires accusés d’homicide, which describes the phenomenon of ‘false positives’ in Colombia) in the region of Soacha, taught critical thinking and philosophy to women and youth, developed training sessions for subsistence farming communities, etc.
At the time of his arrest, Gil was not only the acting technical secretary of the ‘Congreso de los Pueblos’, an organization that works to promote a dignified life for all Colombians, but also studying to obtain a master’s degree in social studies at the National University.
Arrest, charge, and imprisonment
At 2pm on June 6, 2018, seven men, five of whom were not in uniform, arrested Gil. He was driven to the police station of Cundinamarca in a private sedan without being informed of the reason for his arrest.
Two days following his arrest, based solely on the testimony of a single person, security measures were issued against Gil which have deprived him of his liberty ever since and he was charged with the reception, transport, and trafficking of explosives as well as with carrying weapons. The office of the prosecutor claims that Gil was a member of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and that he participated indirectly in their military actions.
Gil was first held in an overcrowded cell at a police station for 11 days with limited access to a bathroom and sunlight. He was transferred on June 21, 2018 to the La Picota maximum security prison where he will remain until the security measures against him are revoked or his innocence is proven in court.
Gil has said that he has been submitted to various forms of harassment by prison guards, which include being referred to as a ‘guerilla’ on repeated occasions and the destruction of many of his books and manuscripts.
A reoccurring problem in Colombia
There exists a pattern of political persecution in Colombia in which students, intellectuals and activists are accused of crimes for which there is little or no material evidence. These cases are referred to as ‘judicial false positives’.
For a more in-depth explanation of ‘judicial false positives’, please consult the following blog post written by Arnaud Cloutier: Une justice à deux vitesses: entre l’impunité et la lutte contre le terrorisme (première partie), in which he discusses a very similar case.
Julian Gil has now been deprived of his liberty for more than 15 months. LWBC will continue to follow this case very closely until the final verdict has been reached. It is extremely important in a democratic society governed by the rule of law that the right to a fair trial is respected.