Roldolfo Ríos Lozano—human rights lawyer

Re: Roldolfo Ríos Lozano—human rights lawyer

To: Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Dr. Luis Camilo Osorio, Fiscal General de la Nacion

From: Gail Davidson, LRWC Director

Date: 2004-03-19

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is a committee of Canadian lawyers that provides support internationally to lawyers and other human rights advocates in danger and promotes the enforcement of international human rights standards protecting the duty and right of lawyers to uphold the rule of law.

Lawyer Roldolfo Ríos Lozano, who is involved in politically sensitive cases, has been threatened with death if he continues to represent these cases. LRWC believes these recent death threats against human rights lawyer Roldolfo Ríos Lozano are intended to prevent him from continuing to represent clients who are themselves human rights advocates.

The government of Colombia must take immediate steps to protect the life and professional independence of Ríos and to ensure an effective investigation that results in the perpetrators being brought to justice.

Please promptly advise LRWC of:

  • what measures have been taken since March 14, 2004 to guarantee the safety and independence of lawyer Roldolfo Ríos Lozano Rodriguez, and;
  • what is being done to investigate threats to Mr. Ríos and to bring those responsible to justice through prosecution and trials.

LRWC is aware that many Colombian advocates who sought to defend the rights of others would be alive today had adequate protection measures been offered to them and had attacks and threats against them been effectively investigated and the perpetrators properly tried and punished.

A March 14 2004 Amnesty International bulletin indicates that Roldolfo Ríos Lozano has in recent weeks, received a succession of very serious death threats delivered by telephone and has been further intimidated by being kept under surveillance and followed. Specific threats warn that he must drop his legal cases, leave Colombia or be killed. Mr. Ríos represents a number of human rights defenders who have accused the armed forces of human rights violations. One of his clients is Arauca Peasant Association—ACA president, Luz Perly Córdoba. ACA’s work in exposing human rights violations by the armed forces has, in the past, precipitated attacks on ACA workers.

International law obligations Legally binding international law requires the government of Colombia to:

  • protect the life of Roldolfo Ríos Lozano; and,
  • protect the right and duty of Mr. Ríos to defend the rights of his clients; and,
  • ensure that those responsible for the criminal acts against Mr. Ríos are tried and punished according to the law.

Duty to protect life As a member of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States Colombia has become a state party to virtually all major human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-ICCPR, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—CAT and the American Convention on Human Rights—ACHR. Each of these instrument enshrines the right to life and imposes duties on Colombia to both protect the lives of citizens and to conduct prompt and effective investigations when the life of a citizen is threatened.

Duty to protect advocacy rights Because Roldolfo Ríos Lozano is a lawyer and a human rights advocate, the Colombian government is further obliged to afford him a level of protection that enables him to continue to defend clients free from harassment, intimidation and threats. (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the American Convention on Human Rights.)

Duty to conduct effective investigation of rights violations. Colombia’s duty to “to conduct genuine and effective investigations to determine the persons responsible for the human rights violations” (Paniagua Morales et al case, March 8 1998) has been confirmed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in many cases. This Court, has also established that “the absence of an effective remedy to violations of the rights recognized by the Convention is itself a violation of the Convention by the State Party in which the remedy is lacking.” (Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion OC-9/87) A failure to investigate human rights violations and to identify and punish violators, is itself a violation of international law obligations.

The life of Mr. Ríos clearly depends on quick remedial action by the government of Colombia. LRWC calls upon you to direct immediate measures to comply with Colombia’s legal obligations to protect the life and professional independence of Roldolfo Ríos Lozano and to prevent further threats by ensuring that those responsible are identified, tried and properly punished.

LRWC looks forward to receiving your reply.