More than 10 months after the death of Mario Paciolla, which occurred during his employment for the Verification Mission of the UN Peace Agreements in Colombia, his parents, Anna and Giuseppe, continue to call for justice and truth for their son.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have precise information about what the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome has learned,” they said. “We know that they are very busy carrying out a thorough investigation and that they have submitted several letters rogatory. We know that the Colombian tax authorities appear to be collaborating, but we know very little about the UN. Recently, we learned from the newspapers that both the ROS and the Prosecutor’s Office have gone to Colombia, during pandemic times, a truly extraordinary event. We imagine that there are still investigations to be carried out with regard to the autopsy, and that there are documents that still have to arrive from Colombia; and that, as a result, everything is shrouded in absolute secrecy.”
The lack of information from the judicial authorities is not the only difficulty they’ve encountered. The parents add: “We have not had any contact from the central institutional level.”
While the top figures in national politics don’t seem to want to step forward to shed light on the story, the political and social community that supports the cause of the Paciolla family continues to grow.
“We have received solidarity from mayors, organizations and ordinary people who have joined the initiative to display banners calling for justice for Mario,” they said. The list of municipalities in solidarity that have decided to display the banners include Casoria, Crispano, Caivano, Mugnano, Frattamaggiore, Sant’Anastasia and the city of Naples itself.
In Naples, in the Vomero district, at the new sports center named after the basketball player Kobe Bryant, a mural dedicated to Mario Paciolla has been inaugurated. The artist Luca Carnevale depicted him in the company of Corto Maltese, the famous sailor protagonist of the works of Hugo Pratt, and next to a cliff overlooking the sea, the same sea to which he dreamed he’d be able to return to take a bath, as he confided to his parents a few days before his violent death.
It is a mural that serves as an admonition for the respect of human rights and that builds a link between those who live in the Neapolitan region and the hundreds of thousands of people who are demanding justice and truth on the other side of the ocean, in Colombia, a country where those who defend human rights continue to be killed with impunity.
In 2020, Colombia held the sad record of the highest numbers of killings of human rights activists: 177 murders out of 331 committed worldwide; and in recent weeks, the violence against the social movements and protesters has only intensified. Since April 28, the day the national strike began, about 40 protesters have been killed, there have been more than 500 desaparecidos, more than 1,000 arbitrary arrests, hundreds of wounded, dozens of them with serious eye injuries, and several cases of sexual and gender-based violence. There have also been dozens of cases of attacks on humanitarian organizations, including the UN, which has denounced violence and executions perpetrated by the Colombian police.
In 2018, Mario Paciolla, writing under the pseudonym Astolfo Bergman in the pages of Limes, talked about the risks that came with the then-recent election of the current President of the Colombian Republic, Ivan Duque. Mario called Duque’s victory “the success of one of the staunchest opponents of what was agreed upon in Havana,” i.e. the Peace Accords, portending a new period of war and violence against the Colombian population.
In this context of social injustice and systematic violation of human rights, the position of international organizations such as the United Nations takes on a fundamental importance.
Mario Paciolla’s parents want to talk about the UN in particular: “It is a very important and powerful organization, which in our opinion is not very willing to collaborate with our legal team, perhaps because of its direct involvement, and is delaying giving us answers about what happened in that discussion that Mario had with members of the organization.”
They conclude with a direct appeal to “those who worked with Mario, who shared with him moments of friendship, holidays, who said they were friends of our son’s—is it possible that they don’t know anything, that they don’t have their own ethics and conscience that calls on them to tell the truth, and, in particular, that they’d rather trust an organization that is unable to protect and safeguard its employees? Or is the death of a friend and colleague worth less than a paycheck?”