[By list here]
Concern about the peace process and violence against HRDs
Letter of support of the peace process in Colombia and of concern for the high levels of violence against human rights defenders and social leaders. As members of the international community, we state our support for the Peace Accords and the demands of victims of the conflict for truth, justice, means of reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition.
OIDHACO network of 36 European organisations, including Caravana, request that the Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) adopt urgent measures to de-escalate the conflict and avoid any military action putting civilians at risk. We are very concerned about the violent events that have been taking place since 9 January 2018, when the bilateral ceasefire between the ELN and the Colombian government ended.
Concern regarding the killing of two land claimants
Letter of concern regarding the killing of two land claimant leaders. The first killing was on 26 November 2017, the victim was Mario Castaño Bravo, a land claimant leader of Curvaradó. He was killed in La Larga Tumaradó territory. Twelve days later on 8 December 2017 a land claimant leader of the collective territory of Pedeguita Mancilla, Hernán Bedoya was killed in the village of Playa Roja.
Caravana, War on Want and University of Sussex, concerned for Gilberto Torres’ safety
Caravana War on Want and University of Sussex wrote a letter to the National Protection Unit (UNP) requesting for full protection measures for Gilberto Torres. Gilberto is a union leader of Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO) who was kidnapped by paramilitaries in Casanare in 2002. He returned to Colombia in the spring of 2016. However, he continues to face harassment and illegal surveillance. The CERREM (Committee of Evaluation of Risk and Recommendation of Measures – Comité de Evaluación del Riesgo y Recomendación de Medidas) granted him full protection measures but the UNP cut them down to a mobile phone and a panic button.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Caravana and organisations part of the International Caravana of Jurist concerned to hear about aggressions towards human rights lawyer Soraya Gutierrez Arguello.
The Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group and other are very concerned to hear of further threats and harassment towards human rights lawyer Soraya Gutierrez Arguello, member of José Alvear Restrepo lawyers collective (CAJAR). In 2005 Soraya received a dismembered doll painted in red to her house as a message of what repercussions her daughter could face. Again in July this year, her husband found another doll in the car registered in Soraya’s name, after attending a public hearing on security and mobility in Bolívar city.
Caravana and other five international organizations concerned about an attack on the Cúcuta premises of Luis Carlos Pérez lawyers collective
During our last delegation, the Caravana was informed about security incidents that have taken place since 2005 against CALCP members as well as their offices and infrastructure in Cúcuta and Bucaramanga. Over forty incidents of attacks and other threats against CALCP remain in complete impunity, despite CALCP’s efforts to advance their complaints towards a thorough investigation and prosecution of those responsible. The Caravana is deeply concerned to learn of a new incident on May 25, 2017, when unidentified individuals entered the residence-office of CALCP in Cúcuta, and violently broke the locks, doors, and knocked over belongings and documents.
Caravana and other five international organizations concerned about detention of human rights lawyer Rommel Durán and other two human rights defenders
The Caravana and five other international organisations (all of whom are members of the International Caravana of Jurists) are deeply concerned to learn that on 1 July, whilst protesting peacefully, three human rights defenders: ROMMEL JONATHAN DURAN CASTELLANOS, human rights lawyer with EJP, community leader ELIECER ALFONSO VERGEL and MARÍA FERNANDA MONTIEL MURILLO, a journalist with the Colombia Informa and member of EJP, were subjected to violence by law enforcement officials during their arrest for allegedly blocking public roads and for alleged violence against public servants. They were later released without charge.
Letter in support of the application for protectionary measures of Equipo Jurídico Pueblos before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
Along with five other organisations of lawyers around the world and a UK law firm, the Caravana has sent a letter to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in support of Equipo Jurídico Pueblos’s application for protectionary measures. The protection measures assigned by the Colombian state are not only insufficient to protect their lives, but are also likely to put them in even greater danger and do not enable them to discharge their functions safely as lawyers.
The Caravana and five other international organisations (all of whom are members of the International Caravana of Jurists) are concerned about the increase of threats and aggression towards a group of lawyers named Equipo Juridico Pueblos, and about the lack of adequate protection measures granted by the Colombian government to ensure that they can continue their work without fear for their lives or those of their family members.
Letter in support of Equipo Juridico Pueblos’ request for urgent intervention in the Chiriguaná case
Along with five other organisations of lawyers around the world that are part of the International Caravana of Jurists, the Caravana has sent a letter to the Colombian Public Prossecutor Office (Fiscalía) in support of Equipo Juridico Pueblos’ request for urgent intervention in the Chriguaná case. We are concerned about the reports of violence by public forces on 11 July 2016 against members of the Chiriguaná community when they were demonstrating against the closing of the only hospital in the area.
Letter in support of Gilberto Torres request for protection measures
The Caravana is concerned about Gilberto Torres’ safety and has written to the Colombian authorities in support of his request for protection measures. Gilberto is a union leader of Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO) who was kidnapped by paramilitaries in Casanare in 2002. After being kept captive for 42 days, he was released, but the risk to his life remained so high that he was forced to flee the country. Gilberto has recently returned to Colombia after 15 years in exile and the risk to his life remains high.
Read the letter in Spanish here March 2017 Letter of concern regarding increase in paramilitary activity, in particular in the Departments of Antioquia, Chocó, Norte de Santander and Valle del Cauca The Caravana and other organisations that are part of the Colombian Caravana of Jurist are deeply concerned about reports of increased violence and paramilitary activity which is putting human rights defenders at risk. Read the letter in English here and Spanish here February 2017
Urgent alert: serious concern about killings and attacks against lawyers in Cali, Valle del Cauca department
The Caravana, along with 34 lawyers’ organisations around the world, have sent an urgent alert to the Colombian authorities regarding their serious concern about threats and attacks against lawyers in Cali, Valle del Cauca department, including the killing of lawyer Jhon Fredy Concha Valbuena and the atte
mpted killing of lawyer Jorge Enrique Belalcázar Gutiérrez in January and February 2017.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Caravana is concerned about the murder of HRD Emilsen Manyoma and her partner
The Caravana submitted a letter to the Colombian government concerning the brutal murder of community leader Emilsen Manyoma Mosquera and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca.
Read the letter in Spanish here
OIDHACO welcomes the commencement of peace discussion with the ELN
On 8 February 2017, Oidhaco, a European-wide human rights network where the Caravana are members, wrote statement welcoming the start of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN guerrilla group.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Declaration on the assassination of Aldemar Parra Garcia
On 23 January 2017, the Caravana along with 94 organisations around the world condemn the assassination of social leader Aldemar Parra García in the mining region of Cesar and urge the Colombian authorities to not treat it as an isolated incident, and to undertake – in line with the peace agreements – effective actions to crack down on and prosecute the members of any illegal armed group that operates in Colombia.
Letter to the Colombian Public Prosecutor about crimes allegedly committed by military members against female farmers in Valle del Cauca
On 21 December 2016, The Caravana sent a letter to the Colombian Public Prosecutor, Nestor Humberto Martínez, expressing a serious concern regarding impunity in case 9044-70 – a murder and grave crimes of sexual violence that could amount to torture, allegedly committed by members of the military against seven female farmers in Valle del Cauca region in 2004.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Caravana sends a letter to Colombian authorities about the rise in Killings
On 14 December 2016, The Caravana along with the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the Fundación de la Abogacía Española and the Caravana Irish Lawyers’ Group sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos regarding the rise in killings and threats against human rights defenders. “we are extremely concerned about reports from the UN, Colombian NGOs and the press, detailing killings of and attacks against human rights defenders and social leaders, which appear to be on the increase”.
Read the letter in Spanish here
OIDHACO concerned about rise in HRD killings
On 12 December 2016, OIDHACO and its members issued a statement expressing their deep concern about the wave of murders, attacks and threats that have taken place in recent weeks against Human Rights defenders in Colombia.
Read the letter in Spanish here
MEPs welcome new peace agreements with FARC-EP and call for protection for human rights defenders
On 18 November 2016, the European Parlament sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos welcoming the new peace agreements with Farc-ep. However, they call for protection for human rights defenders in Colombia. “We need to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all Human Rights Defenders, including those who are involved in the construction of peace”.
Lawyers continue to face threats and challenges to their work
On 23 June 2016, the Caravana sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to condemn an incident of harassment against a human rights worker for Tierra Digna. The incident took place in April 2016, as a worker was followed on a motorcycle for sustained period and threatened. This is the second incident of harassment to take place against a Tierra Digna worker in the past 4 months, following the theft of a laptop that contained sensitive documentation about Tierra Digna cases.
The letter calls upon Santos to publicly condemn the attacks and to assure the work of Tierra Digna can be carried out safely. Read the letter in Spanish here
Bogota threats and Cartagena attack against HRDs
On 30th May 2016, the Caravana expressed concern about death threats to human rights defenders Nancy Carvajal, Alfonso Castillo and Piedad Córdoba which were made by paramilitary group Águilas Negras. In a letter to Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, they further condemn the group’s attack against the SUTIMAC union headquarters in Cartagena. This comes in light of a report from MOVICE of 28 murders carried out by Paramilitary groups between 15 February and 15 March 2016.
The Caravana calls upon Santos to publicly condemn all threats and ensure a full investigation into their happening, while urgently dismantling all paramilitary groups and ensuring that human rights defenders can carry out their duties safely.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Multiple threats against human rights defenders in Valle del Cauca
On 19th May 2016, the Caravana sent a letter to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to express concerns over a series of death threats received on 11th April 2016 by numerous victims’ and human rights organisations in Cali, Valle del Cauca. Pamphlets sent to these organisations make threats of a generalised nature against social leaders, and also contain specific death threats directed at 15 individuals.
Read the letter in Spanish here April 2016 Killing of Hernando Pérez Iriarte and intimidation of members of MOVICE Sucre
On 28th April 2016, the Caravana wrote to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to express concerns over the killin
g of Hernando Pérez Iriarte and the intimidation of members of the Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado (National Movement for Victims of State Crimes, MOVICE) in Sucre. Mr. Pérez Iriarte represented several families in their request for land restitution in the town of Los Palmitos, while the human rights defender Ingrid Vergara Chávez, who continues to face indimidation, is a member of MOVICE in Sucre and is currently accompanying victims in a land dispute in the town of Villa de San Benito.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Threats faced by Claudia Julieta Duque and Víctor Javier Velásquez Gil
In March 2016, the Caravana sent a letter to Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, concerning the threats and harassment faced by the investigative journalist Claudia Julieta Duque and her lawyer Víctor Javier Velásquez Gil. Ms. Duque has investigated and denounced various cases of human rights violations such as forced disappearances, forced recruitment of children into armed groups, killings and impunity, as well as the alleged infiltration of paramilitary groups in government agencies. As a result of here work, she has been subject to threats, kidnap and defamation since 2001, and incidents of harassment and intimidation against both her and Mr. Velasquez have intensified and increased in advance of the initial hearings for her case of psychological torture committed by former directors of DAS.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Threats faced by Rommel Durán Castellanos
In February 2016, the Caravana joined with other international lawyers’ organisations to send a letter to the Director of Colombia’s National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección – UNP) concerning the threats faced by the human rights lawyer Rommel Durán Castellanos, who works primarily with rural and isolated communities in the regions of Cesar and North Santander. Although the risk level faced by Mr. Durán Castellanos was classified as extraordinary in April 2015, the protection measures proposed by the UNP were deemed inadequate, and since then he has continued to face accusations, stigmatisation and physical violence. The signatories therefore requested that the proposed protective measures be reviewed and implemented to ensure the safety of Mr. Durán Castellanos in his work as a human rights lawyer.
Read letter in Spanish here
Trespass and burglary of Tierra Digna’s Office in Bogota
On 4th February 2016, members of Tierra Digna, an organisation of lawyers and other professionals dedicated to protecting the rights of victims against the actions of national and transnational companies that exploit natural resources in Colombia, entered their office to find that it had been burgled the previous evening. Although a number of computers and valuable objects were accessible, the only item stolen was a laptop containing sensitive information on cases Tierra Digna is working on, raising concerns that this incident could be intended to disrupt the work of the organisation. In February Colombian Caravana wrote a letter asking the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to see that the situation is rectified and to ensure that the staff at Tierra Digna and other human rights lawyers and defenders can continue their work free from threats and intimidation. The Caravana will continue to monitor the situation as it awaits a response from the Colombian government.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Attempted assassination of Adolfo Verbel Rocha
On January 15th, 2016, Caravana sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in light of an assassination attempt against Human Rights Defender Adolfo Verbel Rocha. On 23 Novemeber, 2015, a gunshot was fired at Mr Verbel, a member of Human Rights Organisation MOVICE. In the letter, the Caravana call upon Santos to condemn the attack and ensure adequate protection for Mr Verbel, while also condemning the inadequateprotection measures for Ingrid Vergara and the scaling-down of protection measures granted to Juan David Díaz.
Read the letter in Spanish here
Lawyers attacked and threatened
In December 2015, the Caravana wrote to the President of Colombia, Juan Manual Santos, about the murder of the community leader, human rights defender and environmental campaigner Daniel Abril. We expressed our concern over the continued lack of protection for human rights defenders in the country and called on President Santos to ensure a full, prompt and impartial investigation of the murder of Mr. Abril, with the intention of bringing to justice those responsible.
In November, the Caravana wrote about mass threats from paramilitary groups against the Cajar Lawyers’ Collective, the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the Yira Castro Legal Corporation and many other human rights defenders (here). We also wrote to express concern about a series of threats and attacks on land restitution judges (en Español) in the César and Chocó regions, hampering the victims’ rights to achieve truth, justice and reparation. We also wrote to the Colombian State regarding further threats to the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movice) – Sucre and Atlántico región (en Español).
In October, we wrote letters about threats to trade unionist and lawyer Francisco Ramírez Cuellar (en Español), and about surveillance and intimidation against Cajar lawyer Yessika Hoyos – (en Español), near her home.
In September the Caravana signed joint letters with other human rights organisations, regarding the situations of two human rights defenders who have been imprisoned in Colombia. On 21 September we raised concerns about the detention of Feliciano Valencia, (en Español), a high-profile indigenous leader from the Cauca region, due to the impact this has on the right of indigenous peoples in Colombia to exercise their own special jurisdiction, as established by the 1991 Constitution. On 9th September, we also expressed concerns regarding the continued imprisonment of David Ravelo Crespo – five years on – despite grave concerns about the observance of due process in his case- joint letter (en Español)
In July the Caravana expressed concern at the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Lawyer Paola Salgado Piedrahita (Esp). On 2 July 2015 there were two small explosions in Bogota that left several people injured. The authorities attributed these attacks to the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, ELN). On 8 July Paola Salgado and fourteen other persons were arrested by the police and officials from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. These people, most of whom are human rights activists in the social movement and the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos), as far as we know have yet to be formally charged. However, since their arrest, these people have been portrayed to the public by the police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the media as being those responsible for the explosions in Bogota.
Paola Salgado is well-respected for her legal work for women’s rights and her participation in democratic spaces such as the Working Group for Women’s Life and Health (Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres), the National Women’s Network (Red Nacional de Mujeres) and the Women’s Confluence of the People’s Congress (Confluencia de Mujeres del Congreso de los Pueblos). She is a lawyer at La Universidad Nacional and at the time of her arrest was working at a hospital in Suba where she helped to coordinate sexual and reproductive health services.
On Tuesday 14 July Police Chief, General Rodolfo Palomino stigmatised the work of lawyers when interviewed on the radio. He stated that the fact that the detained persons had human rights lawyers working with them “confirms just who we have arrested” (corrobora a quien hemos capturado) Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos – CSPP) has expressed concern for the safety of human rights lawyer Gloria Silva, who is working on Paola Salgado’s case, in light of this statement.
We understand that the correct legal procedures were not completed before the arrest was made and that there are fears that this could become a public trial. The nature of the investigation has not been made clear and may relate to earlier attacks in Bogota rather than the one on 2 July. We are concerned that a ‘public trial’ such as this places pressure on judges and public prosecutors that could compromise their judicial independence.
On 24 June 2015, the Colombian human rights lawyer for the Fundación Nydia Erika Bautista (FNEB), Ms Andrea Torres Bautista received a telephone call in which an unidentified male threatened to rape and kill her. We understand that the caller informed her that:
“[…] didn’t you understand that you should stop annoying us, we are going to kill you, but first we will rape you so that you respect men” ([…] no entendió que deje de joder, le vamos a pegar una matada […] pero primero le pegamos una violada pa’ que respete a los hombres).
We understand that the above incident relates to Ms Bautista representing Mr Jhon Alexandra Holguín Ramírez and his mother Ms Jacqueline Ramírez, relatives of one of five men who were allegedly the subject of enforced disappearance, in the La Combinada case. On 20 June 2015, Mr Ramírez was taken to hospital in Tuluá Municipality, Valle del Cauca Department after suffering stab wounds. Ms Ramírez, is a witness to the La Combinada case and as a result of her involvement, she has received repeated threats to her life.
Read more: http://www.colombiancaravana.org.uk/threats-to-a-lawyer-and-others-involved-in-the-la-combinada-enforced-disappearances-case/
In May the Caravana and other organisations signed a Joint Statement to express our dismay and concern regarding the serious accusations and attacks via social networks against renowned human rights defender José Humberto Torres, by Mr. Dieb Maloof, related to the current ongoing criminal investigation into the murder of Mr. Nelson Mejía.
In recent days and via different media sites, Mr. Dieb Maloof has accused José Humberto Torres of being the “national leader of the cartel of false witnesses”. In addition to this, via the Twitter account @todosconmaloof, José Humberto Torres has been the subject of all manner of groundless accusations and aggression. José Humberto Torres has worked for many years in the defence of human rights carrying out valuable work as a trial lawyer as part of the struggle to overcome impunity in Colombia.
In April the Colombia Caravana and Lawyers Without Borders Canada wrote to Señor Alejandro Ordónez Maldonado Inspector General (Procurador General de la Nación) in the letter the risks faced by Pablo Segundo Ojeda Gutiérrez, the local human rights officer (personero) of Hatonuevo were raised. In exercising his powers under his role as a State-employed local human rights officer, Pablo Segundo Ojeda Gutiérrez, has been involved as the guarantor of a prior consultation process in the Wayuu indigenous territories of El Cerro, Rodeito el Pozo and Lomamato.
Members of the Colombian Caravana are very concerned to learn that the Colombian human rights lawyer Rommel Jonathan Duran Castellanos has recently been the subject of further verbal and physical threats and has been denied access to his clients.
At 11.15 on 1 May 2015, in his capacity as a lawyer, Mr Duran Castellanos went to interview two young persons who had been detained during the May 1 demonstrations in Bucaramanga. However, he was prevented from doing so and was the subject of verbal and physical attacks by members of the police intelligence unit (SIJINN). According to reports, Mr Duran Castellanos was violently pushed by several officers out of the detention centre, and refused access to his clients until late in the afternoon, during which time they have alleged that they were subjected to ill-treatment at the hands of the SIJINN officers.
In recent weeks, members of CPDH (Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), including Erika Gomez Ardila and Nathalia Ruano, have been victims of threats and intimidation. Incidents have included anonymous and threatening phone calls, members being pursued and photographed by unknown individuals. Incidents such as these prevent the CPDH carrying out their work defending and protecting human rights. The Caravana call for a thorough investigation into the threats and request adequate protection measures to be provided to members.
On the 12th of February, MOVICE co-ordinator for the Valle de Cauca branch, Ms Martha Giraldo, met with an UNP functionary who informed her that her security scheme was being terminated. She was told that an evaluation, carried out on 27th of November, had classified her with a normal level of risk. Ms Giraldo has been threatened on multiple occasions and remains at great risk. The Caravana request an investigation into the reasons for the unacceptable removal or her protection measures, and ask for her security system to be reinstated.
Read letter here: Marta Giraldo 2nd March
On the 8th of February MOVICE member, Martha Díaz, who has been mentioned in previous threatening pamphlets, had a funeral wreath delivered to her home. Upon hearing about the incident, Ms Díaz left for another location and asked the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Proteccion – UNP) to provide her with traveling protection, however security measures were not authorised. Ms Díaz appears to be a target of an ongoing strategy of intimidation; therefore the Caravana request that the authorities issue a public statement condemning the latest threats, as well as carrying out adequate investigations and providing sufficient protection measures.
Read letter here in English: Martha Díaz – English
In January 2015 threats were made against MOVICE members and other human rights defenders working in the Sucre and Atlántico regions in the Colombian Caribbean, including Movice Coordinator Ingrid Vergara and human rights lawyer Adil Meléndez.
On January 11, 2015 in the city of Baranquilla, pamphlets containing death threats were left at the houses of several individuals; one pamphlet even stated that the region itself was a military target. The following day, Edison Rivera, a farmer from the La Europa farm, received a phone call to pass on a message for Mr José Miguel Barreto stating that he had 24 hours to flee the country and to pay the caller 10 million pesos; otherwise his son or grandson would be killed. MOVICE Sucre members and members of La Europa farm reported this to authorities in Sinicelejo, however they were told their offices could not deal with their complaint. Subsequently, further threats were received on January 21, 2015.
The Caravana call for a full investigation into the threats made against MOVICE members and community leaders from La Europa and La Alemania farms, and for the results to be made public. The Caravana request that appropriate and effective protection measures are implemented so that the defenders can continue with their work without intimidation, harassment or further threats.
In early September we first wrote about threats concerning the security of human rights defender and MOVICE spokeswoman Diana Montilla. On the 18th of December Ms. Montilla was the victim of an acid attack, of which we first issued a letter of urgency, a few days later she received death threats from paramilitary groups declaring her a military target. Colombia Caravana call for an investigation into the attack and the implementation of sufficient protection measures, including the right of Ms. Montilla to choose her own bodyguard.
2014 – Lawyers murdered, victimised and subjected to violence
On the 27th of November 2014, Colombia Caravana wrote to President Santos concerning the unfounded allegations made against human rights defender and MOVICE spokesman Sr. Juan David Díaz by paramilitary Sr. Salvador Arana Sus.
Sus is under investigation concerning paramilitary involvement in the murder of Díaz’s father, Eudaldo Díaz, and despite Díaz not being a witness in the case against Sus, he has accused Díaz of perjury resulting in an unfounded investigation against him. Díaz and his family have been the victim of numerous threats from Los Urabeños, including multiple threats of assassination and extortion. Colombia Caravana call for a full investigation into the allegations made against Díaz and an end to the prosecution if it is found to be unsupported as well as the continuation to provide Díaz and his family adequate protection.
A judge in Medellín sentenced sixteen 16 palm oil businessmen from the Chocó region to prison for their alliance with paramilitaries for the development of an agroindustrial oil palm project in the Bajo Atrato area. To read full article in Spanish, click here
On 29 October we wrote with concern about threats to the security of Jorge Eliécer Molano. Mr Molano reported in May that during 2014 there have been several security incidents against him including: 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. Jorge Eliécer Molano announced that he would be forced to suspend his work as a lawyer due to the lack of guarantees for his safety. Mr. Molano works as the legal representative of victims of human rights violations in cases of great importance for human rights and the functioning of the rule of law in Colombia, including the case of the 2005 massacre which took place in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.
A Joint NGO letter was sent to the Supreme Court on the case of human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo, who has been imprisoned despite significant irregularities in the case against him. This is the latest letter signed by the Caravana on this case which we are following closely. Celebrated human rights organisation the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo – Cajar) are representing Mr Ravelo in this appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice. Spanish version here
Celebrated human rights organisation the Colombian Commission of Jurists (Comision Colombiana de Juristas – CCJ) has written about the dangers of the expansion of Military Criminal Jurisdiction. In August this year, the Caravana delegation attended a hearing in the Colombian Congress to look at this proposed reform to justice, which would establish the military justice system as the competent jurisdiction to try crimes committed by the military, including crimes against humanity such as extrajudicial killings and forced disappearance. Under international human rights law, it should be the Ordinary Courts who consider these crimes. The Caravana is extremely concerned about this proposed legislation and is calling for it to be scrapped.
Read the letter in Spanish here
In September we wrote about threats against Anabel Zuñiega and Arturo Portilla (esp). On Wednesday, 24th September 2014 a pamphlet signed by the Caribbean-Coastal Command of the paramilitary group Los Rastrojos began to be circulated. This document described lawyer Anabel Zuñiega Cespedes (amongst others) as a legitimate military target, and ‘prohibits’ her from continuing her work defending human rights. Cespedes recently hosted the Colombian Caravana 2014 mission at which international delegates were present and the fact that these threats were received only a few weeks after the delegation, is completely unacceptable.
In August we wrote about the systematic persecution and harassment of human rights defender Letter on Iván Antonio López Castañeda (en espanol) member of the Corporation community of lawyers SUYANA, Valle de Cauca. The Colombian Caravana members are deeply concerned by the systematic persecution and harassment of human rights defender Iván Antonio López Castañeda, member of the Corporation community of lawyers SUYANA, in the region of Valle de Cauca, Colombia. The Corporation community of lawyers SUYANA have publicly reported the events occurred on the 5th August 2014. Sadly, in the past three years, several human rights lawyers and defenders of Valle del Cauca have received various threats and/or have been harassed and stalked. This situation is unacceptable and must be rectified in order to ensure the safety of all lawyers and other human rights defenders so that they can continue their important work.
In August we wrote about the arbitrary detention of Rommel Duran Castellanos (En espanol). During 20 hours of his detention, we understand that Mr Duran was kept in conditions and subjected to treatment that would appear to amount to ill-treatment and possibly torture. He was detained in a place where the temperature was high, he was handcuffed most of the time and was the subject of sleep deprivation.
On 9 July we raised further and continuing threats and harassment to Jeison Pava. These threats are part of a pattern of harassment that Jesion Pava has endured over the years: on 3rd June 2014, Pava (and another) received a threatening email (from firstname.lastname@example.org); on 6th July 2013, Pava (and another) received a threatening email (from email@example.com); on 16th January 2013, Pava received a threat by telephone; on 23rd November 2012, Pava (and others) received a threat by email; on 18th November 2012, Pava received a threat by phone (from +5731267870).
In July 2014 we wrote about Luis Evelio Luis veleli. Londoño was murdered in Cali on 21 June 2014 at 22:07. He was a criminal lawyer who, along with many others, worked in the Immediate Reaction Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office (URI), anprovided representation for detainees.
On 1 July 2014 the Caravana wrote to the President raising that on Friday, 27th June 2014 an unknown person (with a coastal accent) telephoned Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPDH) Bogotá headquarters three times, requesting information on the work carried out within the organisation by Jeison Pava and making threats. During the first call, at 9:50am, the caller said;
“big son of a bitch wants to fill this place with flies” (“gran hijueputa quiere que le llene esa geta de moscas”). At 10:05 am, a second threatening call was directed against Pava: “we know Jaison is here” (“nosotros sabemos que Jeison está acá”) and “we’re hoping he’s dead”(exigiendo que se lo pasara). At 10:20 am, a third threatening call was made, saying: “we know that this son of a bitch is in Bogotá, we need this head of cattle” (“nosotros sabemos que ese hijueputa está en Bogotá, necesitamos esa cabeza de ganado”) and “you want us to go in and kill them all?” (“ustedes quieren que entremos a matarlos a todos”).
The Colombian Caravana members are deeply concerned by a series of further threats against human rights defender Ms Martha Díaz (MOVICE National Spokesperson and Secretary) as well as threats made against further MOVICE members Yesenia Perez, technical secretary of the Departmental Committee of Victims of the Atlantic and Leslie Orozco, a member of the National Bureau of Victims of the Atlantic.
On 18 June emails were sent from the address firstname.lastname@example.org to AFUSADO and Yesenia Perez, containing the 19th public statement from the Rastrojos Group, the “Urban Intelligence Front”, which called directly upon “Martha Diaz AFUSODO president “; “Yesenia Perez Otero of the Technical Department” and “Leslie Orosco National Bureau of Victims”. The text of the threat stated the following information:
“As part of our security policies we have investigated several organisations and our team has determined that people who are named in this press release infringe on our organisation and have been declared military objectives and collaborators of the guerrilla, therefore we have decided to send this statement to end all form of activities that may cause harm to our organisation, regardless of whether they are either military or legal, if within 48 hours after receiving this statement these activities continue we will be forced to silence them completely by attacking their dignity and their families.”
In July, the Colombian Caravana was among the signatories to a joint letter from Colombian and National civil society about prisons opening their doors to let the Justice and Peace paramilitaries out without recognition of victims’ rights. They included those who committed serious human rights violations. In its 2013 report, the Office of the High Commissioner of United Nations for Human Rights warned that: “most probably almost all the accused will be set free at the end of the eight years without having been judged”. Read more
The UK-Colombia Bilateral Investment Treaty was ratified by the House of Commons on Thursday 10 July 2014. Lord Stevenson of Balmacara has asked for a debate on UK-Colombia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) in the House of Lords, which was held on 30 July. Read more Read the letter to Lord Carlisle from the Caravana.
The Caravana signed a joint letter in July, expressing deep concern for the safety of victims’ families, lawyers and human rights groups in relation to the ‘false positive’ extrajudicial execution case of Darvey Mosquera Castillo and Alex Hernandez Ramirez Hurtado. We are particularly concerned for the safety of Alfamir Castillo, mother of Darvey Mosquera Castillo, human rights lawyers Jorge Molano and German Romero, and Asociacion Nomadesc. All of the above have been the subject of death threats and harassment since the inception of the court case. Read more
22 June 2014 Colombian Caravana members are deeply concerned by a series of further threats against human rights defender Ms Martha Diaz (MOVICE National Spokesperson and Secretary) as well as threats made against further MOVICE members Yesenia Perez, technical secretary of the Departmental Committee of Victims of the Atlantic and Leslie Orozco, a member of the National Bureau of Victims of the Atlantic.
On 9 June 2014 the Colombian Caravana wrote to President Santos about threats to Ingrid Vergara and Jeison Pava. On Tuesday, 3rd June 2014 at 10:08am COT (Colombia Time), an email from the account email@example.com was sent to Ingrid Vergara and Jeison Pava (to MOVICE and PCHR email inboxes) with the following message (translated from Spanish here):
Dear Ingrid Vergara and Jeison Pava, Know that we are not going to rest until you are dead, sons-of-bitches, some day you will pay for your blunders in matters that do not concern you, you can tread carefully but your security will not shield you from the shower of bullets that will fall on you and your family, take care that we don’t end your lives. Stay quiet and do not put your nose in business where you are not welcome, motherfuckers, you are going to pay for the damage you have done to us as it is your fault, we’re fucked but not through our own actions. This is not a threat, this is for you to wonder whether, each time you are in the streets, this could be your last day in this world, gonorrhoeas.
On May 25th May 2014, the Colombian Caravana wrote to express concern about the recent statement made by Dr Jorge Eliécer Molano and Germán Romero, Colombian lawyers and human rights defenders, announcing that they have been forced to suspend their work as lawyers due to the lack of guarantees for their safety.
We have known Mr. Molano and Mr Romero since 2008, and we greatly admire their work as legal advisers in non-governmental associations such as the Sembrar Corporation and dhColombia, and as legal representatives of victims of human rights violations in cases of great importance for human rights and the functioning of the rule of law in Colombia.
On Tuesday, 29th April 2014, the headquarters of the Confederation of Workers (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia – CUT Santander) in the city of Bucaramanga received a sealed envelope (ostensibly from the Municipality of Lebrija). The Colombian Caravana members are deeply concerned by a serious threat contained within that letter against the defence lawyer Leonardo Jaimes Marín. Read the letter in Spanish here.
Marín represents political prisoners and victims of state crime. He is also a member of the Foundation Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los presos politicos). Marín was himself persecuted by the now defunct Administrative Security Department (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS ) and has countenanced a series of acts of harassment and direct threats from state agents and associated paramilitary organisations.
The letter also threatens union leaders David Diaz and Martha Florez, and environmentalists Diego Riaño and Jimmy Moreno. The threat is signed by Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – Los Rastrojos – Comando Los Urabeños, who have pledged to fight against all expressions of support for the Government peace talks with the FARC and the ELN and accuse human rights defenders and activists of supporting the insurgency by threatening to convene agricultural strikes. The threat calls on human rights defenders and activists to cease all work with communities; insisting that if they persist in this work, they will be responsible for what happens to them and their respective families. This threat comes after the start of the small farmers movement in northeast Colombia, which has been strongly suppressed by harassment, threats and arbitrary arrests by the security forces.
On 9 April 2014 we wrote about further threats to Jeison Pava. Despite our efforts to hold correspondence with the Colombian authorities, we have not received information from the Attorney General’s Office regarding any investigation regarding these facts or some serious progress in the investigations.
On 16 March 2014 we wrote to President Santos about Jorge Reales a lawyer and human rights defender whose residence was burgled and his laptop containing sensitive information about extrajudicial killings in which military units are implicated, was removed. No other items of value were taken. My Reales works for Corporacion Sembrar, which represents victims of state crimes allegedly committed by military personnel. We are concerned that the burglary of Mr Reales’ home is not an isolated incident but part of a series of efforts to disrupt the work of Corporación Sembrar.
On 10 March 2014 we wrote to President Santos about the harassment and intimidation of members of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission 2014. Jose Rocamora, Janeth Hernandez, Abilio Pena and Danilo Ruedo have been victims of theft of laptops, followed by men on motorbikes, and sent threatening messages including one which read ‘continue messing with the documents and you will die like your father.’
On 22 February 2014 President Santos was written to about threats against MOVICE member and lawyer Martha Díaz. On 12 February two threatening messages were sent from mobile telephone number 321 554 4126 to Martha Díaz. The first one stating that ‘we inform you that the order has been given to all members of the organisation to take action against you as you have not wished to leave the city guerrilla’; and the second one stating that ‘the order to take you out has been given to all fronts. Your time is up. The order is clear: to finish you as you have not left the city’. We understand that although these threats have been reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía), the Municipal Attorney’s Office (Personería), the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoría) and the police in Barranquilla, no information has been provided regarding the corresponding investigations.
On 15 February 2014 President Santos was notified about threats against political opposition leaders Alirio Uribe, Iván Cepeda Castro and Aida Avella. The Caravana has had a long standing association with Alirio Uribe as an effective and truly great lawyer, who we have met on numerous occasions both in Colombia and In London and worked closely with. We are shocked that such a highly respected individual could be targeted in this way. It would cause great damage to the reputation of Colombia if anything were to happen to him.
We understand that on February 4, an electronic written message was received against the lives of the above named individuals. It was signed by the paramilitary organisation Aguilas Negras. The message is highly abusive and threatens violence and death. It describes the former President of the Republic Alvaro Uribe as the “true leader,” and refers to “communist bastards” and “pigs” and states: “this is the only warning to withdraw from politics and sows save their lives”. It states that Iván Cepeda is “notorious for persecuting and slandering the best president of all time in Colombia , Álvaro Uribe Vélez”. The message recalls the execution of Mr Cepeda’s “terrorist father” and warns that he should go into exile with “Aida Abella whore”. It describes the human rights organisation Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR) as a “united terrorists Lawyers Collective”, which is “posing as human rights defenders”. It states that Alirio Uribe Muñoz calls himself the
“Other Uribe to tarnish our true leader”. It goes on to warn that they are going to “put dynamite in the ass…All cafarianos and MOIVCE warned”. After referring to Mayor Petro, the message finishes with the proclamations: “Colombia is democratic, attain peace without terrorists or communists! Petro’s head will roll and it will play soccer. Colombia is democratic, attain peace without terrorists or communists. “
Two days prior to this event, on February 2, an email was sent by the paramilitary group Los Rastrojos to leaders of the Patriotic Union, Patriotic March, the Agricultural Bureau and People’s Dialogue and Agreement – MIA , of which Ms Avella is a member.
The Colombian Caravana, deeply concerned by the recent trespass and burglary into la Casa de los Derechos Humanos, a Human Rights Centre, in the region of Valle de Cauca, Colombia wrote to the President on 8 February 2014.
The Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights & the ANDAS group have publicly reported the incident that took place in the early hours of Monday 6th January 2014, in la Casa de los Derechos Humanos, the headquarters of the Standing Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, the National Mutual Aid Association ANDAS, among other human rights organizations.
The referred human rights organizations reported that the motive of the burglary was to steal information of cases in the exercise of their work as human rights defenders. Some of the equipment had been stolen but not the equipment of greatest value and perfectly visible. Also, desk drawers and file cabinet had been opened. Police did not find any fingerprints. They took many photographs at the signs, posters, and banners in the gallery memory of the UP´s genocide.
On 31 January 2014 the Caravana wrote to President Santos about further threats against human rights defender Danilo Rueda. Mr. Rueda is a lawyer and a member of the Commission for Justice and Peace and of the organisation Movice. On 20 January in the city of Neiva (Hila). A message was left in the mailbox of Mr. Rueda’s family home, which warned of a plan to attack Mr. Rueda and other human rights defenders of the Commission for Justice and Peace. The message from an apparent well wisher stated “tell your brother to take care. He was very careless with his family visits… We know that your friends do things for the well being of people….I am not part of the bad…Take care of yourself”. According to Mr. Rueda’s relatives, the night before the message was found in the mailbox they repeatedly saw a truck being driven near the family home.
2013 – Lawyers murdered, victimised and subjected to violence
A letter was produced on 20th December to alert the Colombian authorities to an incicdent in which gun shots were fired, on 3rd December 2013, against Mr Rommel Durán and the Pitalito Community he represents. This correspondence was issued by Caravanistas as part of the ongoing intervention work carried out in respect of previous repeated threats and harassment against the community, their leaders, the lawyers and human rights defenders that accompany them, in addition to the community’s recent eviction. Click here to read the letter in Spanish
On 20th December, we wrote about continued threats to Martha Diaz and other MOVICE members, by the “Rastrojos” paramilitary group. This recent threat comes after an attack against Ms. Diaz on 16th May 2013, where at 6:30 am a mock bomb was found on the terrace of her home, accompanied by yet another death threat. The Caravana is monitoring her case closely and will continue to do so considering the extreme extent of the violence and intimidation displayed against Ms Diaz.
On 13 December, we wrote to the authorities when the home of MOVICE human rights lawyer, Édgar Montilla, was burgled on 19 November 2013. Mr Montilla is a MOVICE Nariño lawyer and member of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH). Caravanistas urged the Colombian state to make a prompt public statement condemning the latest threats and harassment against members of MOVICE.
On 1 December we wrote about the recent death threat against Jeison Pava, a Colombian lawyer and Movice affiliate with whom a Caravana member met in the month of November 2013. This particular threat was instigated via telephone, following two previous threats suffered by the lawyer in January and July earlier this year. The ECHR petitioned the National Protection Unit to extend protection measures for Pava, but this has not yet been implemented. In this letter, members acted to reinforce this petition and monitor the situation closely.
On 1 November we wrote to the Colombian authorities about threats made against death_threats_against_members_of_MOVICE, Martha Ceballos (Movice office in Nariño), Jesús Arciniegas (Director of the Fundación Desarrollo y Paz), and Diana Montilla a lawyer and a member of the Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos) in Nariño. Caravana members asked the state, among other things, to make a prompt public statement condemning the latest threats against members of MOVICE and to provide them with adequate protection.
On 1 November Caravana members voiced serious concerns about the recent assassinations of lawyers Oscar_Cortes_Baena_and_José_Lubián_Duque_Jiménez_in_Quibdo. The Colombian state was urged to make a prompt public statement condemning the killings, requested to carry out a proper investigation in both cases and was reminded of their obligations under Articles 17 and 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990). On 31 October we signed a joint letter protesting Uribe’s invitation to Senate House, London.
On 30 October we wrote to President Santos about the forced eviction of the Pitalito Community. We have called for an investigation into the serious irregularities and called for the community to be protected and safely returned.
On 26 October we wrote to President Santos raising concerns about threats made against members of Carta de preocupación Amenazas ONIC including Luis Fernando Arias Arias, a lawyer from the Kankuamo People and ONIC High Councillor (Consejero Mayor). On 14 October the ONIC organised a protest of indigenous groups (MINGA) asking for dialogue with government over land rights. Sixty protesters were injured and subsequently the Los Rastrojos paramilitary group, declared ONIC a “military objective” as well as other indigenous leaders.
On the 6 October we wrote to President Santos raising concerns about new threats against lawyers’ organisations CAJAR, the CSPP, the Yira Castro Corporation and other members of MOVICE. On 10 September a threat was sent from the Los Rastrojos National Urban Commands accusing groups of supporting and working with the FARC and ELN guerilla groups. Specific lawyers were named and lawyers were given 72 hours to leave specified areas. On 24 September a threatening pamphlet was sent again linking organisations to guerilla groups and specifically naming José Humberto Torres from CSPP and Martha Díaz, MOVICE and AFUSODO. They were declared military objectives and given 24 hours to leave specified departments.
We wrote to President Santos about the murder of lawyer Edison Alberto Molina on the 11 September in Puerto Berrio, Antioquia. He had finished presenting his radio program, Legal Clinic, in which he frequently made allegations of corruption in local government departments.
Further to our letter of the 9 September concerning a succession of serious threats and attacks against members of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP), CJIP member Danilo Rueda has been subjected to threats in Bogotá. Mr Rueda has been working with the communities of the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó River Basin. We understand that on 22 August 2013, he was approached by two men, one of whom put his hand to his head, and said “Guerilla fighter. Death to the Justicia y Paz people”.
On the 1 October we wrote to President Santos about the San José de Apartadó Peace Community. We have visited this community since 2008 and raised our concerns about ongoing threats against the community who have suffered a total of 138 violations this year.
In September we wrote to President Santos about threats against lawyer Manuel Garzón and other human rights defenders from the interChurch Justice related to their work representing victims of forced displacement and land repossession in the Curbaradó and Jiguamiandó river basins in criminal proceedings against persons involved in business and paramilitaries.
On the 19 August together with organisations including ABColombia and Colombia Solidarity Campaign wrote to Glencore Xstrata a company listed on the London Stock Exchange, and Anglo Gold Ashanti.raising concern about recent death threats sent on August 4, 2013, by the Colombian paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos”. The threat states that these human rights defenders and members of a political party are military targets, because they allegedly have links with the guerrilla and are hampering the work of mining companies in Colombia, including Glencore Xstrata and Anglo Gold Ashanti.
On the 18 August we wrote to President Santos about the murder of Juan Carlos Canizalez Ocampo on 10 August in Buga, Valle del Cauca. The total number of human rights lawyers killed this year has now risen to eleven.
On the 15 August we wrote to President Santos about death threats against lawyer José Humerto Torres of the CSPP and José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (Cajar)
On the 17 July we wrote to the President of Colombia about the assassination of 3 lawyers who were killed Cauca – Sánchez Benítez, Molina Velásquez, Arias Escobar. All three were shot dead by unknown assailants. These murders raise the number of lawyers killed this year to ten.
On the 16 July we wrote to the President of Colombia about the Pitalito Community and Recent Eviction Threats.
On the 14 July we wrote to the President of Colombia about Further death threats against members of MOVICE, in particular against Jeison Pava and Diego Martinez and their families. Jeison Pava and Diego Martinez and their families. En espanol
On the 1 July we wrote to the President of Colombia about the assassination of the lawyer Andrés Felipa Para Utima who was shot in the head at his home in Tuluá on Sunday 23rd July. Mr Parra Utima, a recent graduate from the Universidad Central Del Valle del Cauca, died a few hours later. It is deeply troubling to note that this is the seventh lawyer killed this year in Colombia and the implications that such murders have for the rule of law in Colombia.
On the 25 June the Colombian Caravana and the Bar Human Rights Committee have filed an intervention in a class action aimed at protecting human and environmental rights in Colombia. Colombian miners and rural communities are claiming serious damage to their health and environment after decades of pollution from the Cerrejon coal mine, one of the largest open cast coal mines in the world, in northern Colombia.The miners’ union, SINTRACARBON, has intervened in the case and asked for assistance on international legal issues from the Caravana.
On the 21 June we wrote to the President of Colombia about the legal accompaniment work carried out by Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez – CALCP) with the Small Farmers’ Association of Catatumbo (Asociación Campesina de Catatumbo-ASCAMCAT) . We are concerned about a series of events in which members of ASCAMCAT and those who accompany them have been the victims of attacks, violent repression and stigmatisation.
On the 13 June the Colombian Caravana had a letter published in The Times to coincide with the visit of President Santos to the UK.
On the 21 April we wrote to the President of Colombia about Martha Giraldo. We regularly write in support of Martha’s safety due to serious and persistent threats she faces in her capacity as Secretary of Movice, Capitulo Valle de Cauca. Members of the Colombia Caravana first met Ms Giraldo in 2008, and have monitored her situation continuously since then. We have written four times; on 13 June 2011, and 7 May, 20 June and 31 October 2012 to express our concern. On 10 April 2013 a text message was received which named her, three other individuals, and several organisations. The message was signed “Los Rastropos Urban Command” and was a stark death threat.
On 15 April we wrote to the President of Colombia about the murder of lawyer, Diego Luis García Gonzalez (En Espanol ). He was shot whilst driving his car near Alfonso Bonilla Aragon international airport in Cali. It is deeply troubling to note that this is the sixth lawyer killed this year in Colombia and the implications that such murders have for the rule of law in Colombia. On 17 March 2013 we wrote about the previous 5 lawyers murdered this year.
On the 2 April 2013 we wrote to the President of Colombia about an attack on the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective and Peasant Farmer’s Association of Catatumbo (en espanol). On the morning of 13 March 2013 there was a large explosion outside the offices of Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) and the Peasant Farmer’s Association of Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), both of which are members of MOVICE, in the Department of North Santander. The organisations believe it was the action of paramilitaries and is related to their human rights work in the region of Catatumbo and efforts to create a peasant farmer’s reserve, a proposal that has drawn negative comments from the Ministry of Defence. This is not the first incident to which CCALCP and ASCAMCAT have fallen victim. In January 2013 assassination attempts were made against Olga Quintero, Juan Carols Quintero and Guillermo Antoni Quintero.
On 22 March we wrote to the President of Colombia Señor Juan Manuel Santos Calderón expressing our concern about the safety of Alfamir Castillo and her family who have experienced repeated harassment, violence and threats against their lives since the criminal investigation into the murder of Ms Castillo’s son and his friend, victims of a ‘false positive’ extrajudicial execution by serving members of the Colombian army near the city of Manizales.
On 17 March we wrote to Señor Juan Manuel Santos Calderón – Presidente de la República de Colombia in support of Comite Ejecutivo de la Abogacia Colombia and the Consejo General de la Abogacia Espanola highlighting the case of 3 lawyers murdered in Cali and denouncing the lack of effective protection for lawyers in Colombia. We raised the stark fact that Colombia has seen a wave of murders where 5 lawyers have been murdered in the last 5 weeks alone. To the murders on 24 January 2013 of Eduardo Antonio Martinez and his son, Daniel Alejandro Almario Calderon, about whom we wrote on 11 February, we must now add 3 further murdered lawyers: Amaury Manuel Sáez Coronado, aged 42, whose body was found in Cordoba on Thursday 7 March; Jorge Iván Gómez Guerrero, who was murdered in Cali on 28 February and Jhonny Alberto Balarezo Ortiz, murdered in Florida on the 1 March. In fact,as the Consejo General de la Abogacia Espanola says on its web-site, a lawyer in Colombia is murdered every 9 days – a terrible reputation for any country to have acquired.
On the 4 March 2013 we wrote to the President of Colombia about the serious further threat against lawyer Jeison Pava and harassment towards to other members of MOVICE.
In February we wrote to the President of Colombia about the large number of lawyers murdered in Cali . Alejandro Arenas of the Colegiatura de Abogados del Valle stated in February that more that 200 lawyers have been killed in the Valle de Cauca in the last 10 years. On 24 January 2013, Eduardo Antonio Martinez, aged 59, and his son, Daniel Alejandro Almario Calderon, aged 26, both lawyers, were murdered. They were in their office in the Centro Comercial ‘El Bazar’ when they were shot in the head at close range.
On 1 February we wrote to the President of Colombia about further death threats sent to Martha Diaz (en espanol) who is the director and legal representative of the Asociación de Familias Unidas por un Solo Dolor, AFUSODO, an organisation for families of victims of extrajudicial killings. There have been at least four serious threats against Ms Díaz within recent months. The most recent threat was on January 24th 2013 at 8.40pm when Ms Díaz was returning home with her personal bodyguard and her husband. On opening the gates that surround the yard, she found an envelope on the ground, which contained a sufragio) and a note, put together with letters cut from newspapers, saying the following: “Estas muerta, eres coloaboradora de la Guerrilla, guerrilla lla no extamos jugando algono de ustedes va a caér” (Sic) (You are dead, you are a guerrilla collaborator, guerrilla we are not joking, one of you is going to die.) Two days earlier, on 22nd January, Ms Díaz had received a threatening pamphlet from a group that identifies itself as “Los Rastrojos – Comandos Urbanos”. The pamphlet lists MOVICE (Atlántico), the Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas del Estado, of which Ms Díaz is a member, as a military target. We have written about previous threats to Ms Diaz on 14 December 2012 and on the 14 September 2012.
2012 – Lawyers murdered, victimised and subjected to violence
On the 14 December we wrote to the President of Colombia about Marta Diaz, lawyer for the Asociación de Madres Unidas por un Solo Dolor (AFUSODO). On 14 November 2012 at 6.00am, Ms. Diaz was threatened by an unknown man on a high powered motorbike with no number plates outside her home in Barranquilla. He told her to leave and threatened to return that night.
On the 16 November we wrote to the President of Colombia about Jorge Rodriguez and German Sanchez (en espanol) who are Bogotá based human rights lawyers defending victims and relatives of victims of gross human rights violations, allegedly committed by senior members of the military or paramilitary groups. The latest threats are related to the case against those accused of the killing of Alex Ramírez and Darvey Mosquera. Relatives of the victims, their lawyers and judges have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and threats putting their lives at risk. One relative Mrs. Castillo was threatened recently on October 10, 2012 in the city of Palmira (Valle del Cauca), while she was on her way to the city of Santiago de Cali by public transport. She was approached by a man that grabbed her, pressed a gun to her chest and said: “Tell the lawyer that he is going to die and you too”. Then the man jumped off the bus and disappeared from the sight of Alfamir Castillo and the other passengers.
On the 31 October we wrote to the President of Colombia about death threats to members of Movice and Marta Giraldo. These threats appear to be of a systematic nature and the problem does not appear to be being adequately addressed by the Colombian authorities. We are particularly troubled about the threats towards Martha Giraldo. The most recent threat to Ms Giraldo, members of MOVICE and other human rights defenders was on 24 September 2012, when Walter Agredo Muñoza, a member of the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee (FCSPP) was sent a text message that said:
‘Death to Walter Agredo, Berenice, Martha Giraldo, Milena Olave, Yon Poso, Diego, Escobar, Machete, Diana, Delia, Marina Palacio, Feliciano, Aida Ulcue, Olga Nargno. Demobilise now. Death to marxist whores’.
Previously, on 9 July Martha Giraldo and Walter Agredo Muñoz, , received a text message that said: ‘The defenders of guerrillas: ACIM, FCSPP, MOVICE, CUT and SINTRAUNICOL will die in 24 hours. Death’.
These incidents are the latest in a series of threats against members of MOVICE that appear to be directed at preventing them from carrying out their legitimate work. These serious crimes have been referred to in three of our previous letters. The first letter was sent on 13 June 2011 after death threats were received by Ms Giraldo and other MOVICE members, and asks that you ensure that effective protective measures are implemented.
On the 15 September we wrote to the President of Colombia about Mr. Jhonel Cárdenas Castrillón who on Friday, September 7th, at 6:30 pm was the subject of an attempted assassination and the police response appeared to have been negligent in relation to this serious crime. The attempted murder occurred by shots being fired at Mr. Cárdenas whilst he was at his home.
On 14 September we wrote to the President of Colombia about Marta Diaz and Barranquilla human rights defenders (en espanol) who had been sent death threats. Marta Diaz is the director and legal representative of the Asociación de Familias por un Solo Dolor, AFUSODO, an organisation for families of victims of extrajudicial killings. On 30 August at approximately 8pm Ms Diaz received an email stating that she was a military target. This same message warned that any agencies supporting her, including Colectivo Mujeres al Derecho (ASCOLEMAD), would also be objects of a military target if they did not leave Barranquilla immediately. The reason given for such threats was that AFUSODO and ASOCOLEMAD were known to be taking actions against the state.
Both of the above organisations have been active in defending human rights and in upholding justice and peace in the Caribbean coastal region. The threats came after the return of the bodies of two young victims of extrajudicial killings, whose families are part of AFOSUDO. These killings took place between a series of irregularities in the procedure of returning human remains to family members adopted by the Institute of Forensic Medicine and the Prosecutor’s Office. These facts forced Marta Diaz to request an urgent meeting with the Human Rights Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office, in order for the authority to give an explanation for the problems that have been obstructing the timely delivery of human remains to their families. In the aforementioned meeting, Luz Estella Romero Villalba (a legal representative of ASOCOLEMAD), two mothers of victims, a member of the organisation APRODEFA and Marta’s husband were also present.
On 11 September we wrote to the President of Colombia about Judge De Dios Solano who was subjected to stigmatisation and unfounded prosecution having released Jose Marbel Zamara Perez following a habeas corpus application. Judge Solano was criticised in the media as a “rotten apple”. There was the appearance of political interference in the ensuing legal proceedings.
On the 30 August we wrote to the President of Colombia about Daniel Prado (en espanol) following an incident on 14th of June, after the Justice and Peace Commission hearing. Daniel Prado, a human rights defence lawyer , was in the city of Medellin dealing with a case that involved the Uribe Velez family. Ex-President Uribe wrote on his twitter account: ‘Society of lawyers invade prosecution offices with foreign women? To pressure to covert slander to truth. Why do they allow it?’ Such conduct from an ex-president is totally unacceptable as it tends to undermine the valuable work of human rights lawyers and defenders. This is particularly important considering the other threats and harassment towards human rights defenders involved with the Comisión Intereclesial Justicia y Paz.
On the 31 July we wrote about threats sent to Human rights defenders working in land restitution (en espanol) on 4 July 2012 by a group calling itself the “Army Anti Restitution.”
Those threatened include: members of the Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (CCAJAR), Yessica Hoyos and Soraya Gutiérrez, the latter also being Vice-President of FIDH, Diego Martinez, executive secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH), Ivan Cepeda, founder of the National Movement of State Crime Victims (MOVICE), Jeison Paba, Juan Diaz Chamorro, Pedro Geney, members of MOVICE, Franklin Castañeda, president of the Foundation of the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP), José Humberto Torres, member of the FCSPP, Gloria Cuartas, member of Colombianos y Colombianas por la Paz, Aida Quilcué, High Counsellor of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), Lilia Solano, President of the Justice and Life project and Piedad Cordoba, a former senator of Colombia.
They each received an e-mail with a picture of themselves and a message saying they had become military targets. The text of the email stated:”13 guerilleros covered up as Human Rights Defenders, 13 military targets. Our armed forces have clear instructions to take care of these bastards who want to take the land away from good citizens in order to give it to guerilleros like themselves. You are now warned and aware that we have uncovered your plans and those of the no less [HP] shitty guerilleros who with the excuse of being Human Rights Defenders try, by the means of all kinds of arbitration, to strip of their lands the real owners in order to give them to a handful of bastards and sons of bitches guerilleros”. These threats come at a time when human rights defenders in Colombia are being targeted for their work as well as being stigmatized by declarations made by state officials as high as ministers, the Attorney General’s Office and the President Juan Manuel Santos himself.
On the 26 July we wrote to the President of Colombia about enforced disappearances (en espanol) of human rights defenders in Colombia. The exact figure of disappeared persons is unknown. According to the Colombian Ombudsman’s office, there were 61,604 disappeared persons in Colombia. That means that in Colombia 1 in every 750 people are missing. An example was that of the human rights defender and peasant leader, Henry Hernan Diaz, who disappeared on 18 April 2012. Henry Hernan Diaz is the Vice President of the Peasant Association of South East Putumayo – ACSOMAYO, representative of the Bureau of Social Organizations in the Department of Putumayo, a member of the Single Agricultural Trade Union Federation (FENSUAGRO), and coordinator of the movement of the ‘Marcha Patriotica.’ On April 18, 2012, Hernan Diaz Henry led a delegation of more than 200 peasants and indigenous people in Guamuez Valley Township, Putumayo. However, he has not been seen since deciding to go to Puerto Vega later that day.