Canadian NGO presents new evidence of innocence in the case of Judith Brassard, Colombia
During the press conference held on December 19th, 2017 at the San Luis Beltrán du Collège Jordán de Sajonia de Bogotá auditorium, the Canadian human rights organization, En Vero, presented evidence in support of the review on appeal filed on December 18thbefore the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia, in the case of Canadian, Judith Brassard.
In 2010, Brassard was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the December 4th, 2006 murder of her husband, Felipe Rojas Gnecco. The Canadian citizen, who has maintained her innocence throughout her 9 years of incarceration to date, has had the support of the Canadian organization since 2015. En Vero’s support marked a turning point in the case. In turn, En Vero has been supported by the Fonde Justicia y Verdad, a Colombian foundation for the defense of human rights, which also had a representative speak during the December 19thpress conference.
En Vero’s president, David Bertet, discussed some of the evidence that the organization had gathered after almost 2 years of investigation. He added that the foregoing constituted new facts and evidence, thus meeting the criteria established by the Colombian Constitution to file a review on appeal, which is exceptional in nature. In this regard, it is important to note that since the Supreme Court of Colombia confirmed Brassard’s 28-year sentence in 2013, the latest appeal to the highest judicial body in country had to be based on “new” evidence.
The international activist also emphasized that the current legal context in Colombia is more favorable to the Brassard, and that it is therefore likely that the principle of in dubio pro reo(i.e. reasonable doubt) will be applied this time around. Essentially, there is a real opportunity to strengthen the rule of law in Colombia following the challenges faced by the Supreme Court since news broke regarding the potentially illegal practices of Leónidas Bustos, former Supreme Court president and author of the report confirming Brassard’s conviction.
Bertet explained that En Vero defends “people like Judith Brassard, who are innocent and victims of a practice [it calls] false convictions”. Bertet emphasizes however that En Vero’s mission and philosophy is to work with the authorities and the judicial system, and that the organization is not going against either one, but is instead “working to ensure that human rights are strengthened and protected within the legal framework”.
Referring to the Brassard case, David Bertet explained that “the most striking thing in this case, and the most concerning, is not the evidence it has that the family of the deceased most likely tried to steer the Santa Marta prosecutor office’s investigation towards Judith Brassard. What is most disturbing is that the investigating authorities allowed themselves to be influenced by outside pressure, and that the influence of those who wanted to see Judith in prison had a corrupting effect on the entire trial, from the crucial stage of the investigation to the judicial process, during which neither the presumption of innocence nor the principle of reasonable doubt were respected or protected”.
Bertet went on to say that En Vero planned to submit a request for protective measures to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the coming weeks to ensure that due process is strictly observed going forward in this matter.
The conference ended with a few words from Judith Brassard, recorded from the Santa Marta Prison where she is currently incarcerated. The Canadian national addressed both wrongfully convicted Colombian’s facing circumstances similar to her own, and her two children, Mariana and Felipe, saying “soon we will be gathered again outside and with peace of mind because finally, justice have been done”.