Cabrera v. Jiménez Naranjo (a/k/a Macaco)Justice for the Torture and Killing of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia
Cabrera v. Jiménez Naranjo
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida – In June, 2010, CJA filed suit on behalf of surviving family members of Eduardo Estrada Gutierrez and Alma Rosa Jaramillo Lafourie, both leaders of the nonprofit organization Program for Peace and Development in the Middle Magdalena (PDP). Both Alma Rosa Jaramillo and Eduardo Estrada were killed by members of a paramilitary group in Colombia known as the Bloque Central Bolívar (BCB) controlled by Carlos Mario Jiménez Naranjo, alias Macaco or Javier Montañez. The suit alleges torture, extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Defendant Jimenez Naranjo alias Macaco
Colombia’s 40-year internal conflict is the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere. Since the 1960s, leftist guerilla groups have battled government and government-affiliated paramilitaries for control over territory and, more recently, over the lucrative trade in coca, the agricultural source of the narcotic cocaine. By the 1990s, both guerilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, and right-wing paramilitaries were drawing on the narcotics trade as a major source of funding: the U.S. State Department has estimated that the largest guerilla group, the FARC, supplies 50% of the world’s cocaine.
In 1997, the various right-wing paramilitaries joined under an umbrella organization called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia or AUC). The AUC was able to exercise an unparalleled level of influence over all facets of the Colombian state and civil society: numerous judges, generals, business leaders and elected officials were brought under the sway of the AUC. With proceeds from the production, trafficking and sale of narcotics, the AUC was able not only to fund its paramilitary operations but also to buy impunity in the Colombian legal system.
Defendant Macaco commanded a division of the AUC called the Bloque Central Bolívar (BCB). Leading a fighting force of some 7,000 men, Macaco gained notoriety for exercising de facto authority over the BCB’s territory through a widespread and systematic campaign of torture, extrajudicial killing and forced disappearances. According to numerous sources, including U.S. Department of State reports, the BCB was responsible for systematically attacking leaders of the Program for Peace and Development in the Middle Magdalena (PDP), an organization that focuses on building transparent civil society institutions, sustainable economic development and agricultural alternatives to the drug trade. PDP conducted many of its programs in BCB-held territory and directly clashed with the BCB’s interest in maintaining control over coca production.
Between 1997 and 2007, more than 20 leaders of this organization were tortured, disappeared or murdered. Alma Rosa Jaramillo and Eduardo Estrada were among the leaders killed by forces under Macaco’s command.
As part of a brokered demobilization agreement with the Colombian government, Macaco led the demobilization of the BCB in 2003, submitting himself and his fighters to detention. He joined the Colombian Justice and Peace process in 2005. Through that process, he confessed to participating in over 400 violent crimes.
Alma Rosa Jaramillo, who was Plaintiff Jesus Cabrera Jaramillo’s mother, was an attorney in the Middle Magdalena region and a leader of the PDP. She had previously brought several high profile cases on behalf of communities displaced by BCB members in the Middle Magdalena region. Her legal work drew her into open confrontation with the BCB, who denounced her as a rebel sympathizer and threatened her at her home. On June 28, 2001, BCB soldiers pulled Alma Rosa from a public service vehicle. On July 1, 2001, parts of Alma Rosa’s body were recovered from a river in the same region. She had been tortured, mutilated and dismembered.
On July 16, 2001, Eduardo Estrada—one of the founding members of the PDP—was walking down a street with his relative, Plaintiff Jane Doe, when a soldier from the BCB approached the pair and fired three bullets into Eduardo’s head. The shooting occurred about 300 meters away from a local police station, and a group of government soldiers passed by the scene shortly afterwards; yet neither the police nor the soldiers provided any assistance. Eduardo died later that night in a local hospital. Plaintiff Jane Doe was forced to witness the summary execution of her relative in an act deliberately calibrated to terrorize and intimidate her. She brings claims of torture as well as extrajudicial killing. Jane Doe is joined by another relative of Eduardo’s, Plaintiff John Doe. Because of the ongoing threat of persecution in Colombia, these clients have chosen to file these claims anonymously.
Filing & Pre-Trial Motions
CJA filed Cabrera v. Jiminez Naranjo (Macaco) before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in June, 2010. The complaint accuses Macaco of command responsibility, complicity, and personal responsibility in the 2001 torture and extrajudicial killing of Alma Rosa Jaramillo, extrajudicial killing of Eduardo Estrada, and torture of Eduardo Estrada’s relative. The charges – including crimes against humanity; war crimes; extrajudicial killing; torture; and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – are brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The case was filed jointly by CJA and the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, PC, working on a pro bono basis. CJA investigated this case for over two years with the support of the Colombian Commission of Jurists.
Because Macaco is a “Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, all of his assets are frozen by the U.S. government and U.S. citizens are forbidden from doing business with him. Therefore Macaco's attorney needed to apply for permission from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to represent him in our case. The case was closed administratively awaiting OFAC’s response to this request. OFAC did not respond, and Macaco’s attorney ultimately withdrew his application, leading to an entry of default. As a result of continued advocacy by CJA and our pro bono partner Wilson Sonsini Rosati & Goodrich, on July 19, 2011 the court lifted the default, reopened the case, and appointed Macaco’s attorney to work pro bono on his behalf. Macaco filed a motion to dismiss and we filed an opposition in September 2011.
On November 30, 2011, Macaco filed a motion to reveal the identities of our Doe plaintiffs. We filed our opposition on December 7, 2011 together with an affidavit from Jesús Cabrera, the named plaintiff, regarding the harassment and threats he has received as a result of his participation in this case. Before argument was held on this motion, on March 13, 2012, the court stayed the case on its own motion pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., No. 10-1491 regarding the scope of extraterritorial claims under the ATS. (Read an overview of the Kiobel case here.)
On April 10, 2012 we filed a motion to amend that order and lift the stay. On June 26, 2012, our motion was granted in part : The court lifted the stay with respect to the TVPA claims and maintained its stay on the ATS claims.