Court Looks at Supporters of Rebels in Colombia

Por Venezuela Real - 15 de Agosto, 2008, 23:45, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

The New York Times
August 15, 2008

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said on Friday that he would visit Bogotá shortly to determine whether the court should open a formal investigation into support networks for Colombia"s largest rebel group.

In an interview, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he would travel on Aug. 25 to meet with judicial authorities and officials in President Álvaro Uribe"s government to discuss the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The preliminary inquiry comes as concerns about the FARC"s support network outside Colombia have deepened.

For instance, the Spanish police arrested a woman last month on charges that she served as a liaison between the FARC"s leaders and its Europe-based members. Officials accused the woman, María Remedios García Albert, 57, of using a small nongovernmental organization to channel money to FARC members.

And Colombia asked Interpol this week to arrest Rodrigo Granda, a top FARC official. He was captured by Colombian agents in Venezuela in 2004, but was released in 2007 at the request of France, which was trying to win the release of FARC captives. Mr. Granda is thought to be living in Costa Rica, Cuba or Venezuela, according to Colombian officials.

Groups of exiled Venezuelans in June also petitioned the court to investigate the possibility of FARC ties to the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, citing files from FARC computers seized in a raid in Ecuador in March. The files refer to possible Venezuelan aid in the form of financing and arms, but no proof of such deals has emerged.

A debate has raged over the authenticity of the files, which Colombian security forces said they recovered from the computers of a slain guerrilla leader. Mr. Chávez has publicly distanced himself from the FARC since the files became public, insisting that no deals took place and reiterating a call on the rebels to lay down their arms.

"We have been in touch with the Venezuelan government, and they have been cooperating with us," said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, speaking by telephone from The Hague, where the court is based. "The Venezuelans promised to provide all the information they have."

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he would focus his questions on claims of political and financial support for the FARC and for right-wing paramilitary organizations. Both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries are accused of committing crimes against humanity during Colombia"s four-decade war.

In relation to the paramilitaries, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he was concerned that there had been few convictions of paramilitary warlords, despite the extradition of more than a dozen to the United States and a scandal over paramilitary ties among senior members of Colombia"s political establishment.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he also wanted to explore the connections between Colombia"s illegal armed groups and international arms traffickers, pointing to possible ties between Colombian guerrillas and Eastern European arms dealers operating in African countries like Congo.

The FARC has suffered debilitating military setbacks in recent months: the killings of top leaders, and the dramatic rescue of 15 hostages, including the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans. But it remains active in swaths of the Colombian countryside. In one flare-up, seven people died Thursday night in a small town in the Antioquia Department after the FARC detonated a bomb there, Colombian security officials said.

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