Colombia: Investigate and Remedy Murder of Naimen Agustin Lara and Ensure Adequate Protection for Human Rights Defenders | Joint Letter

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Nestor Humberto Martínez
Fiscalía General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 (Ciudad Salitre)

25 May 2017

Dear Mr Humberto Martínez,

Re: Lawyers’ Collective el Equipo Jurídico Pueblos

We write on behalf of the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group (hereafter ‘Colombian Caravana’), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Fundación de la Abogacía Española, Lawyers for Lawyers, Colombia Caravana de Juristas the Netherlands and Caravana Irish Lawyers’ Group; international organisations that are part of the International Caravana of Jurists. During biennial visits to Colombia since 2008, including during our most recent visit in August 2016, we have called upon the Colombian government to protect the ability of lawyers and human rights defenders to represent their clients, and to refrain from any interferences in their work, in order to comply with both Colombian and international law.

During our last visit to Colombia in August 2016, delegates of the International Caravana of Jurists met with the organisation Equipo Jurídico Pueblos (EJP) and some of the individuals and communities they represent. Amongst them were the family members of Naimen Agustín Lara, murdered on 11 July 2016, in the municipality of Chiriguaná, in the department of César.

We were alarmed to hear of the events that took place in Chiriguaná on 11 July 2016, and specifically, the violent action allegedly taken by the ESMAD (Escuadrones Móviles Antidisturbiosde la Policía Nacional – National Police Mobile Anti-riot Squad) against members of the community that were protesting the closure of the San Andrés hospital, the only local hospital on the Ruta del Sol.

Naimen Agustín Lara was a 39-year-old community leader of Afro-Colombian descent and father of six. He was a well-known and respected leader of CONESICE – the Consejo de Comunidades Negras de la Sierrita, elC ruce y la Estación de Chiriguaná. It is alleged he was murdered by the National Police while searching for his son who had been at the protest.

Delegates of the Caravana have been informed that, since that time, members of the victim’s family and the local community have been threatened and violently attacked. This includes the alleged attempted murder of the victim’s niece, Yeraldin Lara Ditta, a key witness to Naimen Agustín Lara’s murder. We are concerned that according to the information we have received, these violent crimes might have been perpetrated principally by members of the ESMAD and the army.

On 18 July 2016, EJP lodged a request with the Public Prosecutor Office (Fiscalía) for urgent intervention (attached). We understand that, to date, a number of their questions have not been answered.

According to information we have received, on 16 December 2016, police officer, Carlos Eduardo Afanador Ibarra (cedula de ciudadanía no., was arrested and charged with the murder of Naiman Agustín Lara, and the legal process is advancing. Nevertheless, the events related to the alleged attempted murder of Yeraldin Lara Ditta have not been clarified.

It is critical that lawyers, victims, and human rights defenders are respected and their safety is ensured to allow for the investigation of this matter. To that end, we respectfully remind you of Colombia’s international obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and particularly, Articles 6 (right to life), 9 (right to liberty and security of person) and 21 (right to peaceful assembly). We further draw your attention to Article 4 (right to life) of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Colombia is a party. Furthermore, we would draw your attention to Articles 16, 17, and 18 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990),[1] and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 8 March 1999).

Therefore, we respectfully ask that you formally communicate to Equipo Jurídico Pueblos regarding their request of 18 July 2016 for urgent intervention, which we include with this letter.

While the international organisations signing this letter are not acting directly on behalf or as a representative of the individuals in these cases, nor initiating legal proceedings. We write to support EJP’s formal request of 18 July 2016, in order to advance the necessary legal work of EJP given their role in this important case.

We would be grateful to receive updates regarding the progress of the investigation into the murder of Naimen Agustín Lara and the attempted killing of Yeraldin Lara Ditta, and respectfully ask that an initial response be sent to the EJP and to the Colombian Caravana within 28 days of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Charlotte Gill
Chair, Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group

Debbie Mankowitz
Executive Director, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Carles MacCragh
Vicepresident, Fundación de la Abogacía española

Adrie van de Streek
Executive Director, Lawyers for Lawyers

Wout Albers
Director, Colombia Caravana de Juristas the Netherlands

Mary Henderson
Director, Caravana Irish Lawyers’ Group

Misael Rodríguez, Director of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Public
Prosecutor’s Office
Luz Vanegas, Coordinator of Relations with International Human Rights and IHL Organisations,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, National Human Rights Ombudsman
Nestor Fernando Osorio Londoño, Colombian Ambassador to the UK
Peter Tibber, British Ambassador to Colombia
Todd Howland, Representative in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

[1]Which state that:

16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance,
harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and
abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action
taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

17. Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by
the authorities.

18. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.