Anna Motta and Pino Paciolla are the parents of Mario Paciolla, the United Nations Verification Mission worker who died in Colombia on July 15. Thanks to their tenacity, the case, which was hastily classified as a suicide, has become an international scandal that calls into question the responsibility of the United Nations and demands clarity on the events of Mario’s violent death. We asked Anna and Pino to tell us about these eight months of silence and their search for truth and justice.
What is the status of the ongoing judicial investigations on both sides of the ocean?
After eight months, unfortunately, nothing concrete has come to our attention regarding the actions of the Colombian authorities. We know, through our lawyers, that the District Attorney’s office is available and cooperative with the Italian prosecutor’s office in sending useful documentation for the investigation. We know that there are three Italian prosecutors dealing with the case of our son, and we hope that soon we will be able to reach some truth. We know that we are on a long and tortuous path, complicated even more by the global pandemic, among other things, but we will have the perseverance and we will never get tired of asking and finding out exactly what happened in the last five days of Mario’s life.
Are the Italian institutions, which spoke out directly in the aftermath of Mario’s death, working for this? Are they in constant contact with you?
After the interest in the days following the death of our son, we do not know what paths have been taken by our institutions to support the investigation; they are not in contact with us. A few days ago, the Colombian Senator Barreras told his version of the truth in an interview, which may have some relation with the death of Mario, but for us the truth should be sought within the team in which our son worked; we want the truth from the UN, his employer, and therefore, at least in terms of civil law, responsible for his death. Some time ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi di Maio, interviewed by Fazio on Che tempo che fa, assured that the institutions were working to get the truth in the Paciolla case, without, however, going into details.
What has your relationship with the UN been from July 15, 2020, to the present? Have you felt supported in this grief by the organization your son worked for? Do you have any news about the internal investigation that the UN is conducting?
We did not feel supported by the UN at all, after that tragic day of July 15 when, through a phone call, we were informed in just a few seconds of Mario’s death, about the way he died (without any certain information), asking us if we were interested in getting the body back, without an iota of humanity towards two parents who were waiting for their son’s return home. We preferred to instruct our lawyers to contact the organization. We have been told that they have not been cooperative. We have no record of their internal investigation.
Are you certain that Mario Paciolla did not take his own life, and what theories have you formed about his death?
We are certain that Mario did not commit suicide, because of what we said to each other in the hours preceding his death. We know that our son was an intelligent person, with uncommon perceptiveness, so we think that he may have witnessed events he did not agree with, which were not in line with his moral integrity, and that this was his death sentence. In December 2019, when he left for Colombia for the last time, he confided in us that if the UN wanted to “pull him into it,” he would leave. I do not know what he wanted to tell us, but with hindsight we can imagine that he had already realized something was wrong. One piece of evidence is the fact that he had asked to change his mission and team several times, and he had never been satisfied about this.
What are you referring to when you call on “the many people who knew him to abandon reticence and vows of silence”?
We assume that our son was not the only one working with conscience and honesty, so we are appealing to people like him who are working with the same objectives, with the same moral integrity, and who said they were Mario’s friends, to speak up, to report what they saw and thought, what they witnessed in the days before his death. Carrying around the burden of a hidden truth is not good for anyone’s life, so we hope that these people, once they’re safe, can work with us in the search for the truth. We are sure that Mario would have done the same for each of them. Our son was killed a few hours after buying a plane ticket to Italy. He was worried, he wanted to escape from Colombia, he confided to a friend that he would never go back to work in Colombia, and especially not with the UN.