Jorge Eliécer Molano Rodríguez
Jorge Eliécer Molano Rodriguez is a well-respected and internationally-recognised Colombian human rights lawyer. He has a long trajectory of human rights legal work, having worked over the course of several decades for many of Colombia’s most renowned human rights NGOs.
He currently works as an independent lawyer with the collective DH Colombia (http://www.dhcolombia.info/) and as legal advisor to a number of prominent human rights organisations. In May 2015 Jorge Molano received the prestigious Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) award in recognition of his tireless work on behalf of his clients in the face of threats and intimidation.
L4L stated: “By awarding Molano the jury wants to applaud his immense personal courage and stamina”. In 2011 Jorge Molano’s work was also recognised by the US State Department, who commended him as “a brave human rights defender, whose work has been, and will continue to be, that of ensuring that those who commit human rights abuses are held responsible for their actions. His persistence and leadership, in spite of the serious danger he faces and the little monetary reward he receives, are inspirational and worthy of international recognition”.
Jorge Molano has worked on some of the most emblematic cases of human rights violations in Colombia in recent times. He is one of the lawyers acting on behalf of relatives of those who were forcibly “disappeared” during the notorious 1985 Palace of Justice siege, when an armed forces operation to re-take the building from a guerrilla group resulted in 11 “disappeared” and 94 dead. He also works on the case of the 2005 San Jose de Apartadó Peace Community massacre of eight civilians, three of whom were children. In both cases, important convictions against members of the armed forces have been secured in recent years. Jorge Molano’s work is characterised by his determination to secure justice for his clients, and to hold to account not only lower-ranking personnel in cases of abuses committed by the armed forces, but those higher up the chain of command. His perseverance in pursuing powerful individuals increases the risks he faces.
Threats and attacks
As a consequence of his work on these and other important human rights cases, Jorge Molano has been the target of threats and intimidation. In recent years, he has been targeted in relation to his work in representation of Alfamir Castillo, whose son Darvey Mosquera Castillo was extrajudicially executed by the armed forces in 2008. In 2012 Jorge Molano and another lawyer were the subject of a death threat for their work on the case, alongside Alfamir Castillo herself, who was also threatened in the same incident.
In June 2014 Alfamir Castillo received a further death threat, hours after the conclusion of a hearing which confirmed the sentences against armed forces personnel found guilty of the killings, and local human rights organisations called for further action to ensure the safety of Jorge Molano and his client. In the run-up to hearings on the case, Jorge Molano, Alfamir Castillo, and the other lawyer working on the case had received repeated threats. The case against high-ranking military personnel for their alleged involvement in the killing of Darvey Mosquera Castillo is currently still progressing through the Colombian courts.
In early 2013, in a hearing on the high-profile on-going Palace of Justice case, Jorge Molano reported the level of recent threats and intimidation to which he and other lawyers and NGO staff working on that case were also subject. These included direct threats posted on the comment boards of online news media covering the case, the surveillance and following of individuals, and lawyers’ phone lines being intercepted and repeatedly cut-off mid-conversation.
Throughout 2014 Jorge Molano reported a series of security incidents against him in apparent reprisal for his work on a number of key cases. These included attacks on his family; break-ins to his home and theft of information; attacks on his emails and website; interception of his communications; and surveillance. The state National Protection Unit declared the same year that the level of risk faced by Jorge Molano should be categorised as “extraordinary”.
Jorge Molano was granted precautionary protective measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2001, but as yet the measures have not been implemented adequately, leaving Jorge Molano and his family in serious danger. Despite the risks, he continues to work for justice and an end to impunity.
Jorge Molano receives protective accompaniment from Peace Brigades International Colombia Project.
The role of the Caravana and international lawyers
In June 2015, the UK Caravana Group and Peace Brigades International hosted Jorge Molano’s visit to the UK, where he met with MPs, the FCO and the legal community, to raise awareness on the situation of impunity in Colombia and the importance of justice for the victims and survivors of human rights violations.
During his visit, he sent the following message to British lawyers:
“The role of the Caravana and the lawyers from Britain who work to defend lawyers operating around the world is essential. It contributes in a significant way to the British authorities’ understanding of what is happening in our country, so that this information can be reflected in the reports produced by the British authorities.
We hope that the British government reassesses its cooperation with Colombia. Cooperation should be conditional on the achievement of real guarantees for human rights defenders and respect for the rights of the victims so that the state of Colombia advances towards a real rule of law”
The Colombian Caravana and our network of supporters will continue to closely monitor both Jorge Molano’s security situation and call fro progress in the emblematic cases he works on.
 The Lawyers for Lawyers Award was created to mark the 25th anniversary of Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) and is awarded every other year. L4L strives, in conformity with international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ‘Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers’ and the ‘Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’ of the UN to enable lawyers to practice law in freedom and independence, always and everywhere. L4L was established in 1986 at the initiative of the legal section of Amnesty International Netherlands with the support of the Dutch Bar Association, the Dutch Legal Committee for Human Rights (NJCM), and the Study and Information Center Human Rights (SIM).