The lawyer for former right-wing paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso asked a federal court in the United States to force Justice Secretary William Barr to deport him immediately to Italy. Mancuso was released on March 11 on a drug trafficking conviction.

According to AP News, the emergency request was filed Monday in a federal court in Washington on behalf of Salvatore Mancuso, a former top commander of the paramilitary group called United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The measure came when Colombia launched a last-minute campaign to prevent Mancuso’s transfer to Italy.

Mancuso’s lawyer argues that William Barr, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wold, and four other high-ranking Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have illegally held Mancuso in federal custody for more than the 90 days allowed for removal of foreigners.

Included with the petition is a copy of the deportation order dated April 15 that compels ICE to transfer Mancuso to Italy, where he also has citizenship.

Immigration lawyer Hector Mora attributes the delay to pressure from Colombia’s conservative government, which he says is working closely with the U.S. State Department to send Mancuso back to Colombia.

Mora claims his client would be killed if he returned to a South American country struggling to recover from decades of bloody conflict. He argues that he has fulfilled his obligations under a peace agreement he negotiated in 2003, limiting prison sentences to eight years for paramilitary leaders who confess to their crimes.

The document reminds the immigration authorities that a person who has regained his freedom can only stay for 90 days in a transit prison and must then be deported.

In this case, according to the former paramilitary chief’s defense, more than 145 days have already passed. They are therefore asking for Mancuso to be deported to Italy, where he is a citizen and would not be in danger.

AP News also reports, the lawyers for the victims and their families who were directly or indirectly affected by Mancuso’s actions say that justice, which has been denied to them for many years, is at stake.

Colombia is a staunch ally of the United States the country suffered a decades-long civil conflict that left 260,000 dead and millions more displaced

In a recent statement issued by the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office, concern was expressed about Mancuso’s possible deportation to Italy. He would then evade the hundreds of investigations pending against him for serious and massive human rights violations such as massacres, forced disappearances, selective killings, forced displacement, and torture.

The Ombudsman’s Office is evaluating the request for precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR. Their purpose of having the judicial authorities take the necessary steps to ensure that Salvatore Mancuso complies with the sentences imposed by the Colombian legal system and thus guarantees the victims’ rights.

Why are so many sectors interested in Salvatore Mancuso’s future?

Mancuso, 55, was one of the paramilitary army leaders accused of being the most bloodthirsty in Colombia’s history, and his confessions about the war crimes committed by the paramilitaries shook the foundations of Colombian politics.
According to Mancuso, in 2005, a third of Colombia’s Congress was elected with paramilitary support, which led to a series of investigations that sent dozens of officials to prison.

Since his release, Mancuso is residing in the United States, where his wife and son received protection.

According to correspondence with the petition, Mancuso applied for asylum in the United States, and also indicated that he would not oppose deportation to Italy, but would reject any order to send him to Colombia.