Report highlights plight of Colombia Three

The Bring Them Home Campaign (www.bringthemhome.ie), which is working to secure the release of three Irishmen awaiting a verdict in Colombia on charges of assisting FARC guerrillas, has published a report titled Colombia: Judge for Yourself. The booklet details the serious violations of fair trial rights of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan.During the trial, the men’s lawyers rubbished the case put forward by the prosecution and asked that the judge make his decision based purely on the evidence put in front of him.

Jose Luis Velasco, defence lawyer for Martin McCauley, told the court how the stories of numerous prosecution witnesses had been picked apart, how respected individuals had come forward to testify to the men’s whereabouts at the times they were supposed to be training FARC rebels, and how forensic evidence against the men had been contradicted by independent forensic experts.

The report highlights the courage of the defence lawyers of the Jose Alvear Restrepo lawyers’ collective and the Federation for Political Prisoners, who have fearlessly defended the men despite the very real threat posed by the state forces and their right-wing paramilitary proxies.

In his foreword, solicitor Peter Madden states: “These three men have been held in custody for over two years and this report confirms that there was no real evidence against them.”

Campaign chair Caitríona Ruane, in her introduction, points out that the report “is a compilation of the reports by International observers, brave people from three continents (Australia, Europe and North America) whose work on human rights shone a light in a country where abuses of human rights is routine, systematic and relentless”.

“We have circulated this report to the government in Colombia, Colombian Embassies throughout the world, international human rights agencies.”

Speaking to An Phoblacht, she said that the report “is a damning indictment of the Colombian legal system from international observers from three continents – lawyers, politicians, and human rights activists. The Irishmen’s right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence were violated on a daily basis.”

Ruane was highly critical of the Dublin Government: “It is clear that there is no evidence to substantiate the charges and the men should have been home with their families. It is unacceptable that these men are about to spend their third Christmas in a Colombian jail. Why is the Irish government so silent in publicly defending the rights of three Irish citizens? What is the Irish Government doing to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens?

“It is essential that everyone acts now to ensure that we stop a miscarriage of justice of the magnitude of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. A decision is imminent, we are awaiting the decision of Judge Acosta. The Irish Government must publicly call for the three men to be brought home now.”

In a letter sent this week to the Colombian Consul-General in Sydney, the Australian observers, including Paul Lynch MP, expressed the wishes of all those concerned about the trial:

“We ask that Judge Acosta be allowed an opportunity to come to an independent judgement about the case and that it be based upon the evidence presented at the trial and be free of outside military or political pressure.

“We desire to see a fair process and see a just outcome.

“We will continue to observe the trial process and will carefully attend to reports from civil and human rights groups.

“We hope that Colombian justice will be fair and impartial.”

• The Report is available from the offices of Coiste na nIarchimí in Dublin (Dominic Court, 40-41 Lr Dominic St, Dublin 1) and Belfast (275-277 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6FD) – cost €5/£3.50.