Barely a week after the board of directors resigned in protest of a lack of governance and institutional controls along with meddling by Mayor Daniel Quintero, last Thursday, Medellín-based utility operator EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín) received a subpoena directed towards its general manager Álvaro Guillermo Rendón, a Quintero appointee demanding reasons for its lack of compliance with judicial orders from Colombia’s peace tribunal, the JEP (Jurisdicción Especial de la Paz ‘or Special Peace Jurisdiction). Failure to comply within 5 days would subject Rendón to arrest. The JEP was set up as part of the 2016 Peace Accords to reconcile the various actors and victims of Colombia’s decade’s long armed conflict.
El pasado 29 de julio se cumplió el plazo para que EPM entregara este material a la JEP. La empresa no respondió a los requerimientos de la JEP, ni envió justificación sobre el incumplimiento. Por esta razón, la JEP abrió el incidente en contra del gerente de EPM.
— Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (@JEP_Colombia) August 20, 2020
The subpoena relates to EPM’s troubled Hidroituango dam project (above photo) in Ituango, Colombia. Where several years ago in order to build the hydroelectric project, EPM transferred bodies from cemeteries in the rural hamlet of Barbacoas. That area of Colombia’s Antioquia department is still troubled with organized crime as a transit corridor for illicit narcotics. In earlier decades it was a conflict zone between guerrilla groups such as the FARC and ELN and paramilitaries such as the AUC. Countless rural people were “disappeared” during the conflict; some were combatants, but most were innocents caught in the 3-way crossfire between the guerillas, government forces, and paramilitaries.
Any possible remains of conflict victims encountered during the construction of the dam would have to be investigated and accounted for. According to independent forensic investigations carried out by the University of Antioquia in Medellín, some of the remains exhumed by EPM contractors appear to be conflict victims, but EPM is accused of re-interring the remains without proper investigation or resolution, and by flooding the area, preventing the continuation of the search for victims’ remains.
While these alleged violations occurred during 2017, before Rendón was appointed, an initial subpoena by the peace tribunal was issued last year, and the current administration has, according to the JEP, ignored it.
The JEP stated that “there is a notorious disagreement between EPM’s affirmations in relation to the administrative transfers of the cemeteries and what was found by the JEP in the laboratory of the University of Antioquia.”
“Likewise, there is no clarity of the due compliance with the information gathering processes with the communities, nor of the development of the search, prospecting and exhumation processes carried out, nor of how these comply with the requirements of the law and technical and ethical standards,” said the JEP in its subpoena.
The JEP demanded that EPM deliver within five days from last Thursday, “the reason and supporting documents by which and based on which EPM supported the statement or consideration in the sense that none of the bodies buried in the cemeteries of the towns of Orobajo (Sabanalarga), Barbacoas (Peque) and La Fortuna (Buriticá) had no relationship with the armed conflict.”
As the legal representative of EPM, Rendón is subject to arrest should the documents not be delivered.
EPM issued a statement in response to the subpoena stating:
“EPM reports that on the afternoon of this Thursday, August 20, it received, from the JEP, the notification of an act through which an incident of correctional measures is opened to the General Manager of EPM, for allegedly not sending information in a timely manner that had been requested from the Company by this authority.
This same order grants a term of five days for the pertinent explanations to be sent.
EPM is evaluating the content of the document and will give the corresponding explanations in the term indicated therein.”