Colombia Caravana 2012: Lawyers for lawyers visits threatened lawyers
Like in 2010, Lawyers for Lawyers participated also this year in the Caravana Internacional de Juristas (Caravana). From the 26th of August 2012 until the 1st of September 2012, Jos Boertjens and Alice Krispijn visited Colombia together with a group consisting of 40 lawyers and judges. The Caravana is organized from London in cooperation with local Colombian lawyers. One of the main goals is to increase the visibility of the work of Colombian human rights lawyers. To achieve this, the participants went to Bogota and some other area’s in Colombia to speak with on the one hand judges, lawyers and their clients, and on the other hand with other authorities such as the Public Prosecutor, embassies and ministries. During all these conversations, the focus was on general problems such as access to justice, the causes of these problems and possible solutions. In addition, the conversations focused on the specific position of lawyers and human rights defenders, whether or not on the basis of individual cases of threatened or murdered lawyers.
These conversations have made clear that the position of lawyers in Colombia, and especially of the lawyers focusing on human rights issues, is still very difficult. Although the current government makes less stigmatizing remarks on the work of human rights lawyers and new legislation is adopted that pursues positive effects for the position of human rights lawyers, this has not yet led to effective improvement of the position of lawyers. Moreover, problems related to the restitution of land to indigenous people and the provision of permits for mining and road construction, pose new threats.
The Caravana offered Jos and Alice the opportunity to make contact with local lawyers and other stakeholders. This makes it easier to follow the situation of Colombian lawyers up close and to quickly take action whenever needed. Unfortunately the visit to Colombia showed that the help of L4L is still very much needed; many lawyers who met with Jos and Alice are under constant threats, and can only do their jobs while risking their lives.
Besides local contacts, the Caravana has also provided a network of international organizations, who, like L4L, work to improve the position of lawyers in Colombia.
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