Attack of William Cristancho Duarte in Colombia

Re: Attack of William Cristancho Duarte in Colombia

To: H.E. Juan Manuel Santos et al.

From: Alyssa Brierley

Date: 2010-12-24

LRWC has been closely monitoring the case of human rights defenders in Colombia since the new President of Colombia commenced his term of office. LWRC is concerned with the recent attack on William Cristancho Duarte, a human rights lawyer with the human rights organization Corporación Compromiso. LRWC understands that Mr. Cristancho was travelling by car to the Palogordo prison in the municipality of Girón, department of Santander when an unidentified gunman positioned near to a bridge under construction fired two shots at the car. At least one bullet went through the rear window.

This attack increases concern for the safety of William Cristancho. On 26 October, he received death threats apparently relating to a case he is working on of the extrajudicial executions of two local peasants by members of the Colombian Army. He was followed by several people as he made his way to a hearing with local judicial officials in Piedecuesta Municipality, Santander Department, to discuss the case. After the meeting he received a threatening call on his mobile, and a witness in the case was also threatened.

LWRC respectfully urges the government to publicly and unequivocally recognize the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders and to set out its strategy to end the long-standing human rights crisis in Colombia. Additionally, independent and thorough investigations must be carried out in order that those responsible for the killings may be brought to justice.

LRWC also respectfully urges the government to ensure protection measures for William Cristancho Duarte and the witness as agreed with them, to fully and impartially investigate the threats against William Cristancho and the witness, and the attack on William Cristancho and to bring those responsible to justice. LRWC also urges the government to take decisive action to end extrajudicial executions and guarantee the protection of those campaigning for justice in line with repeated United Nations human rights recommendations and to fulfil the obligations to ensure human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear, as laid out in the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.