Colombia: The Search for Real Justice Continues – Preliminary Report of the IV International Caravan of Jurists to Columbia

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The International Caravan of Jurists (the “Caravana”) made its fourth biennial visit to Colombia from 23rd to 31st August 2014. Sixty-eight members from 12 countries, including judges, barristers, solicitors, legal academics and law students, visited eight cities in seven departments of Colombia: Bogotá (Cundinamarca), Bucaramanga (Santander), Buenaventura and Cali (Valle del Cauca), Cartagena (Bolivar), Medellin (Antioquia), Pasto (Nariño) and Santa Marta (Magdalena). At both the national and regional level we met human rights lawyers and defenders, victims of human rights violations and state officials.

The Caravana found that in the regions we visited, human rights defenders, including lawyers and justice operators, continue to have their work hampered and to suffer from threats, attacks, and in the worst cases, have been killed for carrying out their work. This work involves struggling to gain access to justice for the most marginalised sectors who have been victims of massive human rights violations, including campesino (small-scale farming) communities, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombian communities, trade unionists, and women.

The continuing dialogues in Havana between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla, give hopes that a future peace agreement could end over 50 years of armed conflict. However those we spoke with warned that to ensure a real and long-lasting peace there needs to be an effective transitional process which respects international human rights standards. Within this context the continuing work of lawyers and other human rights defenders will be fundamental in providing access to Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Repetition for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the armed conflict.

The Caravana will launch its full report in early 2015, and is committed to engaging with the international legal community, members of parliament and civil society groups to work towards full guarantees for human rights in Colombia. We are determined to continue to monitor events and to continue our support of human rights lawyers in Colombia, who will remain one of the keys to peace and justice.