LRWC delegates join 40 jurists on 3rd annual international visit to scrutinize attacks and murders of Colombian human rights lawyers

Thanks to all donors for enabling LRWC’s participation in the Third Caravana of Lawyers to Colombia

Twenty-eight lawyers murdered in Colombia since 2011

LRWC sent two delegates to participate in the Third International Caravana of Lawyers to Colombia, which took place from August 26 to September 1, 2012. BC lawyer, Heather Neun, and Carol Huddart, a former judge of the BC Court of Appeal, were among the 40 lawyers and judges from several countries who met with many human rights lawyers in Bogotá and regions across Colombia.

The jurists visited judges, a trade union and labour lawyers who face significant pressure, a judges and judicial workers’ association and others. Following regional visits, delegates met with government authorities, to present their concerns and press for responses.

Preliminary findings were presented to Colombian government officials, emphasizing that threats and attacks continue against lawyers and judges, and include criminalization, stigmatization, and critical declarations from the government about their work. One document obtained by the Caravana reveals that between 2002 and 2012, the Prosecutor General’s office recorded over 5,200 instances of attacks on lawyers, ranging from threats to physical attacks and homicides. Since the current President assumed office in 2010, 24 lawyers were killed or disappeared in 2011 and four lawyers were killed between January 1 and February 7, 2012.

The Caravana also discovered that despite touted demobilizations, paramilitaries continue to operate freely in the country, perpetrating grave attacks on victims and undermining legislative initiatives such as the Victims and Land Restitution Law. Transnational corporations are another recurring concern; their activities frequently thwart the recognition and enforcement of labour, environmental, and indigenous rights.

Ultimately, the lawyers who represent the sectors with the most human rights victims – including indigenous peoples, trade unionists, and victims of displacement and other human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and disappearances – are themselves made victims. LRWC will be contributing in follow-up to improve and protect the personal and professional security of lawyers and judges in Colombia between now and the 2014 Caravana.