On January 19, one year will have passed since the assassination of political and civil society leader Carlos Alberto Pedraza Salcedo. He was known for his support for civil society processes in the southern neighbourhoods of Bogotá. As the government affirms that the conflict is near its end, the perpetrators of this crime remain unpunished.
Carlos Pedraza disappeared in Bogotá. On January 21, his body appeared in Gachancipá, a municipality 60 km north of Bogotá. The Colombian Forensic Medicine Institute established that his death was caused by a ‘’firearm projectile [causing] a lesion of the skull from back to front …and produced by a low- speed weapon.’’ This assassination beg an a year in which 399 cases of human rights violations against social movement leaders were recorded, arousing national and international indignation.
The legal case
Since the moment when the National Police found Carlos’ body, information concerning his death has been sporadic. When members of the Judicial Investigation Section (Sijin) found his body on the morning of January 21, they made calls to locate his family. They told family members that Carlos had had a motorcycle accident. They ultimately changed their story, telling the family that Carlos ‘’was found dead in the pines with a strong blow to the head.’’ These contradictory versions given by government officials were only the first of many irregularities concerning this case.
Carlos’ case was filed with the First District Attorney of Zipaquirá, where the Immediate Response Unit and the Sijn were in charge of the investigation. Due to the apparent political motive behind the assassination, the legal team asked for the case to be transferred to the National Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights Unit of the Attorney General of Colombia. This request was successful, and the case is now being investigated by the Human Rights Unit of Office 98. However, little progress has been made, and there have been many impediments. 2015 was a difficult year for the social movements, with Carlos Pedraza’s case being only one among many recorded this year. Furthermore, the Human Rights Unit is aware that the District Attorney refused to give Carlos's advocates any information or to assist them in prosecuting the case.
This crime was denounced in Colombia and internationally, by Amnesty International of Asturias, by the NGO Confederation of Asturias, and by Soldepaz, among others.
Carlos Pedraza: a Life
In the days to come, many actions and events will be held to commemorate the life of Carlos Pedraza. Friends, comrades, and relatives in his neighbourhood, Molinos 2, have called for a Day of Remembrance Memory on January 16 and 17.
On January 19, the People’s Congress has convened a gathering in front of the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia in order to build political momentum that could lead to progress on this case.