COLOMBIAN CARAVANA REPORT 2018

23.05.2019

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