Colombia L4L meets Colombian lawyers
On 6 November 2009 L4L had a meeting with Colombian human rights lawyers Eduardo Carreño of the Lawyers’ Collective José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), and Agustín Jimenez of the Committee for Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP). Both have devoted themselves to the improvement of the situation of citizens in Colombia whose human rights are not respected. Among them are many lawyers. Agustín’s organization focuses on providing legal assistance to political prisoners. The organization is assisted by lawyers like Eduardo.
CAJAR, where Eduardo works, defends the rights of human rights activists who are arrested and threatened by paramilitary groups. It also aims to draw international attention to the bad human rights situation in Colombia. By involving law students in its work, the collective aims to bring about a better rooted understanding of the importance of human rights within the next generation of lawyers.
An important goal of both organizations is to make lawyers in Colombia less vulnerable to threats and criminalization by the authorities and paramilitary groups. Anyone who works for either of both organizations is under constant threat. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ordered Colombia to take protective measures with respect to individual employees.
In the meeting with L4L, Agustín and Eduardo indicated that in Colombia, independent administration of justice is not sufficiently guaranteed. Human rights advocates constantly face accusations on the basis of unreliable evidence. The ‘evidence’ includes testimonies by witnesses who rely on government protection for their personal safety, and are therefore easily influenced. Also, evidence is used that is produced by the intelligence services. Judges and prosecutors who raise attention to such problems and who are involved in trials against corrupt government officials, are often severely threatened. For example, a large number of the judges at the Supreme Court of Colombia have requested and obtained protection from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
However, the actual protection has to be provided by the Colombian authorities. Although formally such protection is provided, in reality this is often not the case. In the meeting, it was discussed how L4L can play a role in the protection of lawyers’ rights in Colombia. Agustín and Eduardo indicated that the letter-writing campaigns are very effective and that there is an ongoing need for international pressure. Their organizations will help L4L by informing us of distressing cases of individual lawyers, so that they can be brought to the attention in Netherlands and the rest of the world.
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