Assassination of Magistrate Hernando Baquero Borda

On November 6, 1985, the day of the Palace of Justice Siege by the M-19 guerilla group, Magistrate Hernando Baquero Borda was outside on a course. Photograph: El Mundo

In the morning of July 31, 1986, Magistrate Hernando Baquero Borda was assassinated by hitmen of the Medellín Cartel while travelling through north Bogotá with his wife, Susana Sampedro, and his bodyguards.

On their way to the magistrate’s office, they were attacked by three people on motorbikes, who shot at the vehicle he was traveling in and at the motorbike of their police escort, driven by Second Corporal Ramiro de Jesús Villa Bustamante. The bullets hit Baquero Borda, who in an attempt to save his life, jumped out of the car.

The other mortalities were Luis Evelio Arana Jaimes, one of the bodyguards, and Humberto Bolívar Botía, a laborer working in the sector. The magistrate’s wife was injured in the attack, shot three times in her right shoulder. Additionally, the driver, Pablo Emilio Parra; Police Second Corporal Ramiro de Jesús Villa Bustamante; and the security guard of a building in the sector were injured.

Threats to Lawyers

“The violent deaths of many magistrates and judges is an unmistakable signal of social disintegration.” Luis Carlos Galán, leader of the New Liberalism movement. El Espectador, August 2, 1986.

Hernando Baquero, Magistrate of the Criminal Court of the Supreme Court of Justice, had received threats from Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel for being the main supporter and writer of the Extradition Treaty signed with the U.S. government, which was created at the beginning of the nineties.

The Palace of Justice Siege demonstrated the vulnerability and lack of protection of the country’s lawyers. From 1982, when Belisario Betancur became president, until July 31, 1986, several members of the judiciary were assassinated, including Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, 13 magistrates of the Supreme Court, 20 judges and several lawyers.

The Supreme Court of Justice made an appeal to President Belisario Betancur about the assassinations and intimidations that its officials were subject to. As an act of protest, on August 1, 1986, for the first time in the history of Colombia, all the judges, courtrooms and courts of the country went on strike.

In 1994, the Administrative Court of Cundinamarca ruled that the Colombian state was responsible for the homicide of Baquero and sentenced it to pay compensation to his family. In its opinion, the death of Baquero occurred due to a failure in its service, because the magistrate was not travelling in an armored car, nor did he have the necessary state protection.


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