Joint letter on the alleged illegal espionage against Colombian lawyers
In a joint letter the Colombian Caravana, and Lawyers for Lawyers together with nine human rights organizations, expressed concerns about recent allegations of the Colombian National Army’s unlawful surveillance activities of 130 individuals, including lawyers of the José Alvear Restrepo Collective (Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo – CCAJAR), lawyers of the Inter-church Commission of Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial Justicia y Paz – CIJP) and other human rights defenders.
According to reports published in the Semana magazine, the alleged illegal espionage was part of a mass surveillance scheme carried out between February and December 2019.
In January 2020, members of CIJP were subject to alleged illegal surveillance on at least two occasions. On 30 January, Camilo Álvarez and Danilo Rueda, respectively a member and the Executive Secretary of CIJP, were followed and photographed by an unknown man, upon them leaving a university centre where they had been promoting the Peace University initiative. The signatories have also received reports that Danilo Rueda, was declared the target of an assassination plot.
On multiple occasions, in January 2020, drones were spotted flying over the CIJP offices. Further, on 30 January 2020, a drone was found fallen in the courtyard of the home of Daniel Prado (lawyer, associated with the CIJP), in Bogotá.
In October 2019, lawyer Germán Romero, reported information theft, followings, calls, and a direct death threat from an unidentified individual. These incidents occurred in the context of Mr Romero’s multiple investigations into High Commanders of the Armed Forces and their alleged responsibility for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.
Moreover, it has been well publicised that CCAJAR was one of the many organisations subject to ‘Operation Transmilenio’ by the now defunct Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS) between 2002 and 2010. It is understood that the purported aim of the operation was to disrupt and dismantle target organisations. Surveillance activity was not limited to CCAJAR members but also extended to their family members. We understand that to date, there remain demands for further investigations into these acts in order to see those with overarching responsibility for these crimes brought to account.
The signatories note that Colombia has a history of State-enacted illegal intelligence activities against lawyers and other human rights defenders and that this illegitimate surveillance is alleged to have led to serious crimes, such as assassination attempts and murders.
The signatories therefore, amongst other things, call upon the Colombian government to immediately end all acts of intimidation and surveillance against human rights defenders and particularly against lawyers in Colombia, ensuring that any surveillance carried out on any individual complies with human rights standards, and decisions to undertake surveillance are made independently and are necessary, proportionate, legitimate, transparent, and subject to appropriate oversight and regulation.
The Spanish version of the letter can be found here.
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