COLOMBIAN CARAVANA REPORT 2018

On March 25, 2019, a momentous event took place in the building of the Law Society in London. On this day, the Final Report of the Colombian Caravan 2018 mission was submitted.

This event has been honored by many personages. Our Federation (FBE) was represented by the President of the Federation Mr Michele Lucherini who gave a welcome speech.

The discussion panel about Colombian facts was led by the excellent Prof. Sara Chandler. The FBE Human Rights Commission was represented by its President Mr Artur Wierzbicki and its members Mr Donovan Lindsay and Mr Nardy Desloover.

The FBE participated in the 6th delegation of jurists to Colombia with members from Italy and the UK.

The Federation supports the peace process and recognises that this is a hugely important period when the peace process is threatened by those who do not respect the rule of law, nor the defence of human rights. After more than 50 years of conflict we welcomed the Peace Agreement and over the last two years the process that began to develop.

The FBE has supported human rights lawyers in Colombia since 2006 when the Congress of the FBE was addressed by human rights lawyer Reinaldo Villalba Vargas.

The FBE Human Rights Commission has a long term programme of support for human rights defenders who are at risk, and face daily threats, attacks and assassination.

The International Caravana travelled to Colombia in September 2018. 20 experts from six countries focused their visit on the impact that the peace process has had on the work of human rights lawyers and the dynamics of the conflict. The Caravana travelled to six regions, meeting with lawyers, judges, human rights defenders, victims, and state representatives, among others.

Delegates observed that violence against human rights defenders and social movements has escalated and that there has been a worrying paradigm shift in relation to the characteristics of threats and how threats are acted upon, and a proliferation and re-emergence of illegal armed groups.

Human rights lawyers in Colombia are at heightened risk because of their work seeking accountability and defending communities’ fundamental rights. Delegates heard reports of repeated aggressions against them: threats to their lives and their families; break-ins and thefts of sensitive information; disciplinary complaints filed to hinder lawyers’ work; and stigmatisation by public officials unduly linking lawyers to their clients or making accusations of their belonging to illegal armed groups.

Human rights defenders and lawyers also face obstacles when seeking timely and appropriate protection from the state. The state’s approach to protection tends to be reactive rather than preventive and lacks understanding of the context in which lawyers work and how to take specific circumstances of geography, culture, and gender into account when allocating protection measures.

It would be far removed from reality to conclude that Colombia is in a period of post-conflict, let alone at peace.

The International Caravana first travelled to Colombia on the invitation of Colombian human rights lawyers in 2008. Our sixth delegation heralded the Caravana’s tenth anniversary of international professional solidarity in defence of human rights, justice, and rule of law.

A steady constant these past ten years is that lawyers, human rights defenders, and social leaders continue to be threatened and killed for seeking justice and defending marginalised communities. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement in November 2016, hundreds of human rights defenders have been assassinated and the UN has called for decisive action to stem the tide of violence enveloping many regions.

Colombian’s official state Ombudsman has reported that a human rights defender is killed every three days. The country is highly polarised. In 2018, two years after the historic signing of the Peace Agreement between the state and the FARC, the Caravana joined a call for justice, truth, reconciliation and non-repetition. As the international community and colleagues in the legal profession around the world, we ask that the Peace Agreement be more than just paper and that

it lead to transformation and transition for Colombia and security and peace for its lawyers, human rights defenders and citizens; a peace which all Colombians deserve.

 

PARTICIPANTS:

Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, México: Massimiliano Buriassi, Francesco Christian Di Nardo, Valeria Verdolini,  Wout Albers, Ron Rosenhart, Carles McCragh Pujà, Gemma Sunyer, Fabian Dreher, Rebecca Chalk, Sara Chandler QC (Hon), Jeffrey Forrest, Charlotte Gill, James Lupton, Christabel McCooey, Natasha Morgan, Lee Pearman, Rachel Rushby, Louise Williams, Sue Willman

 

 Artur Wierzbicki

President of the FBE Human Rights Commission

FBE International Law Firm of the Future Competition 2019

On the 12th of April 2019, the international FBE Law firm of the future competition came to an exciting final in Wroclaw, Poland.

Eleven finalists from Poland, Turkey, Bulgaria, The Netherlands and Spain gave a Power Point presentation with their vision on the law firm of the future.

The competition was open to young lawyers and law students. Every competitor or team had to submit a Power Point presentation with a view to the future.

Rumyana Yordanova and Gabriela Hristova from the international law firm Penkov Markov from Sofia were the winners.

Ankara, 16.04.2019

A delegation of the FBE Presidency (Loew, Lucherini, Kaofhold, Wierzbicki) went to Ankara to meet the representative of the National Bar Council (UTBA), Ankara and Istanbul Bar to discuss with them, getting directly news about the processes against Lawyers and set the strategy in according with the Turkish lawyers.

It has been held a special meeting with the Turkish colleagues to organise the best initiatives.

« Law and justice in the European common home » – Roma, 15th March 2019

FBE’s President, Lucherini, took part in the Congress organized by UIF at the Valdese University of Rome on the theme « Law and justice in the European common home », with a report on the function and competences of European lawyers and the support of the FBE for protection of fundamental rights. Link to listen and see the speech: https://www.radioradicale.it/scheda/568554/legge-e-giustizia-nella-casa-comune-europea?fbclid=IwAR3huERiU0P-rk7tOLm1GJ2e1LQbIkQqkEndUToDfayMKYc1vxid7ggn9Pk&i=3963368 

47 European Presidents Conference – Wien, 28.02-02.03 2019

FBE took part at the 47 European Presidents Conference 2019 in WIEN about the defense of the state and the rule of law. 28th February – 2nd March 2019.

The European Conference of Presidents has become a forum for dialogue in which the elected representatives of European lawyers’ organizations exchange experiences. The « informal principle » of the European Conference of Presidents with a friendly supporting program has proved its worth for more than a quarter of a century in uninterrupted continuity.

In addition to the traditional supporting program – with events in the Palais Pallavicini we have to mention the workshop in the Palais Ferstel which is the focus of the Viennese Advokatengespräche.

FBE presented a special Magazine containing a report of the 2018 activities (see attached).

Turkish cases before the ECtHR, « Day of the Endangered Lawyer » – BERLIN – POZNAŃ, 24th January 2019

The Day of the Endangered Lawyer on January 24, 2019 is a day on which we call for the attention for lawyers all over the world who are facing harassment, threats, persecution or even torture and therefore the work of those Colleagues is made increasingly difficult.

We could help our Colleagues in Turkey that day by demonstrating our support in front of Turkish Embassies all over Europe as well as taking part in many panels/discussions. One of panel was organized by Amnesty International and DAV in Berlin/Germany                                                       in Berlin Bar on January 24, 2019 under the tittle :”Turkish cases before the ECtHR”. 

On behalf of FBE Human Rights Commission and OIRP Poznan Human Rights Commission I celebrated that day with my German Colleagues-Lawyers, there. At 2.00 p.m. there was also a opportunity to take part in the peace demonstration in front of Turkish Embassy in Berlin.

 We should realize that since the state of emergency in Turkey was declared in 2016, basing on public datas, 1,500 Turkish lawyers have been prosecuted and around 600 arrested. Around 3,000 judges and prosecutors are said to have lost their posts. In addition to journalists and opposition politicians, the lawyers are in the sights.

Mr Stefan von Raumer (Human Rights Committee DAV Berlin) – a lawyer specialized in international human rights law, co-editor of an ECHR commentary led the mentioning panel,  I was part.

The panelist Mr Ümit Kılınç (human rights lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg) said at the meeting  that one could roughly make out three groups among the threatened lawyers. The danger attaches to the clients who are represented. Affected are clients from politically left circles (1), Kurdish clients (2) and followers of the Gülen movement (3).

He gave the lever for prosecution of lawyers in Turkey as Article 301 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes the public downsizing of the Turkish nation, state or government, as well as judicial bodies. He also stressed that there is little trust among the lawyers in Turkey in the justice system. The last hope is still the Turkish Constitutional Court, but also threatens to be ignored in important decisions by the courts of the courts simply (there was an open showdown in early 2018 because a criminal court had refused to release two journalists).

In his opinion as in many other, the ECtHR was a great hope for number of people, including lawyers in Turkey – but their confidence is dwindling. The ECtHR sees tens of thousands  of cases coming from Turkey and has so far regularly rejected complaints, and instead referred the complainants to the exhaustion of national remedies.

Mr Stefan von Raumer explained he believes that the rigorous handling of the Court eligibility requirement has led to a permanent overburdening of the Human Rights Court since 2011.  He also stressed that the ECtHR would only be prepared to break its stringent admissibility requirements if a complaint authority in a state exists only theoretically but not practically (for example, the ECtHR had accepted this for cases from Serbia, even though there was a complaint authority, but it did not apply to certain legal acts).

In the opinion of many, Turkey must restore the rule of law, release still-detained magistrates and journalists, and lawyers, restore the rights of teachers and magistrates ( judges and prosecutors) who have resigned from July 2016, restore freedom of press and information, end the state of emergency and fully implement the European Convention on Human Rights.

LET’S  STAY  TOGETHER !

 

Artur Wierzbicki

President of Human Rights Commission, FBE

President of Human Rights Commission, OIRP Poznan

“Democracy in the EU » 4th International colloquium – Brussels, 26-27 November 2018

The theme of the 2018 colloquium was “Democracy in the EU« .

The Opening Speech at the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in Brussels/Belgium  was done by Mr  Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission.

In some words he presented the main subject as a fundamental right and the rule of law, one of three pillars which shall forever anchor the European Union. He wished the participants great discussions to highlight the role of political parties, civil society, organizations, platforms and other stakeholders in mobilizing citizens. I was one of them.

The Colloquium  aimed to reaffirm that Democracy is a central value common to the European Union and all its Member States, and  looked at how to renew democratic engagement within the European Union and the European societies. This debate was timely also in the context of the upcoming European elections and on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the Colloquium as well as at the panels and parallel sessions we all  worked together to identify avenues to foster free, open and healthy democratic participation in an era of growing low turnout in elections, populism, digitalisation and threats to civil society.

There were a variety of panels :

  • Resilient and inclusive democracy in Europe
  • A free and strong civil society for a vibrant democracy
  • Free and fair elections and an informed and pluralistic democratic debate.

Of course among participants there was also a great time to discuss one to one some of those topics.

I do recommend to everyone if it would be possible to take part in the next 2019 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.

 

Artur Wierzbicki

President FBE Human Rights Commission