Iván Velásquez Gómez
CICIG Commissioner (International Commission
Against Impunity in Guatemala)
Iván Velásquez was born in Medellin, Colombia, and studied law at the Universidad de Antioquia. He was a litigator at, and director of, the Antioquia Bar Association, COLEGAS. While holding this post, Velásquez campaigned against the Estatuto de Defensa de la Justicia (the Statute for the Defense of Justice), which set forth the principles of faceless judges and secret witnesses. Between 1991 and 1994 he was the Departmental Public Prosecutor of Antioquia, where he was responsible for investigating the acts of torture carried out by organizations such as UNASE (Anti-Kidnapping Unit), the extra-judicial killings committed by security forces, and the acts of abuse inflicted upon civilians during counter-guerilla operations.
During his time as Departmental Public Prosecutor, Velásquez strengthened the Permanent Human Rights Office of the Office of the Departmental Public Prosecutor, which provided 24-hour assistance to respond to allegations of grave human rights violations in Valle de Aburrá. These violations included clandestine or arbitrary detentions; forced disappearances of young people from communes; and indiscriminate raids, searches and lockdowns of entire neighborhoods. He also promoted the Interinstitutional Committee of Human Rights (the first in Colombia), in which all human rights NGOs in Medellin participated as well as the national police, the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the armed forces, the catholic church, and the public prosecution service.
In 1996 he became an assistant judge of the State Council, a position he held until the following year, when Alfonso Gómez Méndez appointed him as the Regional Director of the Public Prosecution Office of Medellin (1997-1999). In this post, in conjunction with a team of investigators, Velásquez tackled self-defense groups. The resulting investigations determined that through 43 shell companies in Antioquia and Córdoba, and 495 bank accounts, paramilitary groups had moved more than 25 billion pesos over a period of a few years.
In 2000, he joined the Supreme Court of Justice as an assistant judge, and between 2006 and 2012, he coordinated the Commission of Investigation Support of its Criminal Chamber, investigating the links between members of the Congress of the Republic and paramilitary groups. As a result of these efforts, the Supreme Court ordered the investigation of politicians on charges of crimes against humanity linked to massacres, selective homicides and mass displacements conducted by paramilitary groups. To date the investigations of the Commission have produced the sentencing of approximately 50 members of Congress. In addition, a dozen more members of Congress are currently facing pre-trial proceedings or trial proceedings, and more than 130 members of Congress are subject to preliminary investigations. Criminal structures with ties to the so-called "narcopoliticians" have also been uncovered.
In recognition of Velásquez's lifelong dedication to the justice sector, his ever-clear and strong commitment to human rights, his relationship with human rights NGOs, and his contribution to the fight against impunity in Colombia, in 2011, the International Bar Association (IBA) awarded him its Human Rights Award, and in November 2012, the Association of German Judges awarded him its own similar award.