During visits to Colombia in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 the Colombian Caravana called upon the Colombian government to protect lawyers’ ability to represent their clients and to refrain from any interference in their work in order to comply with Colombian legislation, and International Law.
The Colombia Caravana is deeply shocked to hear that a lawyer with whom we have worked closely, Mr Rommel Duran Castellanos, has been arrested arbitrarily, and during his detention his Colombian lawyers were unable to speak with him, or indeed to locate exactly where he was detained.
During January and February 2014 Mr Duran visited the United Kingdom, and met with members of the legal profession and with members of the UK Parliament. There is a large body of concern at his arbitrary arrest, detention and mistreatment.
On Saturday, August 9, at 9:15 pm Mr Duran was arrested arbitrarily in the town of Curumaní, in Cesar. He is a human rights defender, a lawyer and a member of the People’s Legal Team (Equipo Juridico Pueblos) in Bucaramanga, as well as a member of the Santander branch of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners.
The arrest was made when traffic police stopped the vehicle in which Mr Duran was travelling. They then delivered him to members of the SIJIN in Curumaní. The only information given by these policemen at the time was that there was a warrant for alleged conspiracy. However they did not state which judicial office issued the order. We are gravely concerned at the way Mr Duran has been treated as it has been reported that the concerned members of the SIJIN behaved with severe procedural irregularity and in an illegal manner.
His cell phone was snatched from him, he was filmed and photographed illegally and was prevented from calling his own lawyer.
He was released after being detained for 20 hours at 5.20pm on Sunday 10 August. However, we are troubled because we have been informed that the Sixth Specialised Prosecutor for Bucaramanga has issued certificate which states that the arrest was a mistake. The issue of this certificate suggests that there is no intention holding to account those responsible for Mr Duran’s arbitrary detention.
Moreover, during the 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.
This situation is completely unacceptable and must be rectified in order to ensure the safety of all lawyers and human rights defenders, so that they can continue with their important work in accordance with Articles 16(a) and (c), 17 and 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990)2 draw your attention to: UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 8 March 1999); Article 7 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Colombia in 1969 and Articles 5 (2) and 7 (2) and (3) of the American Convention on Human Rights ratified by Colombia in 1973; Article 18 (1) and (3) of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All persons under Any Form of Detention of Imprisonment approved by United Nations General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988.
We respectfully call on the Colombian state:
• to ensure and thorough, independent and impartial investigation is conducted into Mr Duran’s apparent arbitrary arrest;
• if it is found that any person or persons are found to have arbitrarily detained Mr Duran, they must be the subject of appropriate disciplinary or criminal sanctions;
• to ensure a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the way Mr Duran was treated whilst in custody with the intention to bring to justice those responsible for his ill-treatment or torture;
• to ensure a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of Mr Duran not being permitted to call his lawyer, whist in detention and of the taking of an illegal film and photograph of him, with the aim of bringing disciplinary or criminal proceedings against those responsible.
Many members of the legal profession in the United Kingdom, and several members of the UK Parliament who met with Mr Duran during his visit to the UK in January and February this year, are outraged at the treatment he has received and who will be involved, alongside us, in continually monitoring the progress in calling to account those responsible for his arbitrary arrest and mistreatment.