The following letter was sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on behalf of the Guild, in response to the news that Alvaro Uribe Velez, former president of Colombia, was to be nominated as vice-chair of the UN investigatory committee on the Gaza flotilla:
The National Lawyers Guild, an association of U.S. lawyers, law students and legal workers committed to human rights, urges that you reconsider the nomination of Alvaro Uribe Velez, former President of Colombia, as Vice-chair of the Panel of Inquiry into the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza. We believe it is particularly inappropriate for Mr. Uribe to serve in any capacity on the Panel of Inquiry given his own record as President of Colombia, in which he presided over massive human rights abuses. In addition, his close relationship with the Israeli military should give rise to a high level of skepticism about his impartiality.
As President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe’s government presided over the murder of thousands of innocent non-combatants, many of them kidnapped and later killed by the military and presented as “guerrillas killed in combat.” This phenomenon became known as “false positives”, a “positive” being Colombian military lingo for a killed guerrilla. When a common grave with some 2,000 bodies was discovered next to a military base in the town of Macarena, Uribe’s response was to praise the military—likely responsible for these deaths—and criticize the human rights workers who brought the mass grave’s existence to light.
Uribe oversaw illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court Justices and opposition political leaders, apparently for his own personal political reasons. In fact, he ran the DAS (Colombia’s FBI) as a personal political tool and the agency became involved in all manner of illegal activities, including committing homicides.
Uribe has shown little support for the United Nations in the past. He severely criticized U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia Michael Fruhling, who worked vigorously to protect human rights, and later complained about U.N. investigator Philip Alston, when he examined the “false positives” occurrences. Uribe has a long history of support for paramilitary forces, illegal under Colombian law, and his political coalition is composed of many figures with paramilitary ties. High-ranking advisors of President Uribe even received a known paramilitary hitman in the Presidential Palace, almost certainly with Uribe’s knowledge and approval.
Most importantly, former President Uribe could hardly be considered impartial as a member of the Gaza inquiry panel, since his government had a very close relationship with the Israeli military, sending Colombian military officers to Israel for training and receiving support from Israeli military for Colombian counter-insurgency activities.
In conclusion, we call upon you to reconsider this nomination. A former government official with a record of disregard for human rights, rejection of UN scrutiny of human rights abuses, and a close relationship with the military whose conduct is at issue in this investigation, is an improper and unsuitable choice for such a panel of inquiry. Such a nomination does the interests of truth, justice and human rights a great disservice.
National Lawyers Guild