Alirio Uribe Muñoz is a high profile human rights lawyer and Executive Director of CCAJAR, the renown ‘Jose Alvear Restrepo’ Lawyers’ Collective (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados ‘Jose Alvear Restrepo’). CCAJAR is an internationally respected law firm working on some of the most important and high profile human rights cases, domestically in Colombia, regionally – with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) – and internationally, with the International Criminal Court (ICC). As part of his human rights work, Alirio Uribe worked as an international observer during the 2007 trial of former Peruvian president Fujimori.
Sir Henry Brooke, a former British court of appeal judge describes Alirio Uribe as ‘my legal hero’1.
Alirio Uribe has been fighting against corruption and impunity in Colombia since the early 1990s. His work has focused on investigating and prosecuting those responsible for political killings, disappearances and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Colombians. Alirio Uribe was honoured with the 2003 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He received this prestigious award, which is given each year by a jury of leading global human rights organisations, for his dedication to working for the victims of human rights violations in Colombia despite the numerous death threats he has received.
In 2009, Alirio and his family were found to be among the main targets of systematic persecution by the DAS and other State intelligence agencies. The Transmilenio Plan targeted opposition politicians, Supreme Court Judges, Social Organisations, and members of the international community.
“What you must understand, is that this is not just endless pages of details about my movements and those of my family. People have died after appearing on those lists.” (Alirio Uribe)
Given that many cases of human rights violations implicate members who have held office in the higher echelons of the state, armed forces, and paramilitary groups, CCAJAR Lawyers face constant threats and intimidation. CCAJAR receives protective measures from the Inter-American Court, as well as protective accompaniment from Peace Brigades International since 1994.
CCAJAR lawyer Alirio Uribe in a meeting with leaders of the indigenous Arhuaco community in Sierra Nevada (Photo:PBI)
CCAJAR is currently working on a number of high-profile cases, including the human rights defender David Ravelo, who was sentenced in December 2012 to 18 years in prison, despite irregularities and a lack of due process in his case. CCAJAR has also represented the families of the assassinated political leader Manuel Cepeda Vargas, journalist Jaime Garzón, victims of extrajudicial killings, the Palace of Justice siege, and a number of massacres, including Mapiripán, La Rochela and Trujillo Massacres. CCAJAR has also played a major role in setting up other lawyers collectives across the country.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a human rights lawyer. Attacks and killings of human rights defenders are increasing in Colombia. In the first six months of 2013 37 human rights defenders were killed in the country. The rights of lawyers not to be associated with the cases of those they are defending are regularly ignored. One of CCAJAR’s founders was assassinated and a number of CCAJAR’s governing body have been forced into permanent exile or to flee the country. The lawyers also face threats on a daily basis.
1 The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/nov/17/alirio-uribe-munoz-colombian-rights-lawyer