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Six Months Without Mario Paciolla, Without Truth and the UN Tells us to Wait

For Colombia it’s a suicide, but for Italian investigators the death is suspicious, while the UN will eventually reveal the conclusions of their investigation.

Mario Paciolla, 1987-2020 (Illustrazione di Antonella Martino)

Six months have passed since Mario Paciolla’s death, the Italian volunteer serving at the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia. The doubts are still many. Family and friends call for justice and even the foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, has launched an appeal for the truth.

The 33-year-old Neapolitan was found hanged with a sheet around his neck the day after July 14th in his apartment in San Vicente del Caguán. Since then, three separate investigations have started to clarify the tragedy.

The Colombian authorities immediately declared it a suicide. In October, the magazine Semana” published the results of the autopsy carried out by Colombian doctors, confirming that hypothesis;  a theory that neither the family nor those who knew him well ever believed. His mother, Anna Motta, described her son as extremely worried in the days leading up to his death. Ilaria Izzo, the ex-girlfriend, confirmed Mario’s obsessive terror: “he was afraid of being intercepted and stalked” she told the Colombian authorities. The journalist and friend of the Italian volunteer, Claudia Julieta Duque, published a letter-article in “El Espectador” where she clarified various aspects. She told about the “troubled” relationship between Mario and his superiors of the UN Mission in Colombia, and she explained that it was no longer safe for him to stay. In fact, just before he died, Mario was planning his escape from San Vicente del Caguan, to move first to Bogota, and then to Naples.

Justice for Mario Paciolla

In Italy, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office opened a murder investigation  The coroner, Vittorio Fineschi, who coordinated the autopsy examination, handed over 300 pages of the report to the prosecutor. Italian authorities disagree with some conclusions of the Colombian report, but the analysis cannot yet be published. There are still some aspects to be clarified and the work is limited by the tissues of the body that is decomposing over time. Furthermore, Mario’s body reached the coroners in precarious conditions, because it hadn’t been reassembled after the first autopsy performed in Colombia.

The superficial knife wounds on the wrists and the marked furrow on the neck as a result of a too sophisticated knot don’t convince the Italian investigators. They are suspicious also because some members of the UN Verification Mission have altered the crime scene. Christian Leonardo Thompson Garzón, the Mission’s security officer, was the first who found the lifeless body of the young Italian man and ordered the house to be cleaned at crucial times for the investigators. Afterwards, the UN withdrew the diplomatic immunity of all those who could have collaborated with authorities, and launched an internal investigation into the organization. Since then, the United Nations has kept silent. So, today, six months after Mario’s death, La Voce di New York asked for updates (link at 16.27). To our question, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary General Antonio Guterres, still had no details to share, but he promised that he would  let us know.

Last month, with the slogan “Who forgets becomes guilty”, the event dedicated to international civil journalism called “Imbavagliati” renewed its appeal to ask for truth and justice for Mario Paciolla.

UPDATE – On January 14th, 2021, La Voce di New York again asked for conclusions on the UN investigation (link at 19.14). Spokesman Dujarric replied that the United Nations are continuing to work with the Italian and Colombian authorities, making the information available, but that as soon as he knows something he will tell us.

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