In a letter to President Santos demanding his immediate intervention after
the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo was alerted to a possible attack one of its members

septiembre de 2010, por Prensa - Colectivo

In a letter to president Juan Manuel Santos, on Friday September 10, the Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo", requested his immediate intervention, after learning in recent days, from a credible source, that an attack was being prepared on the life of a lawyer of this NGO that defends human rights, which would involve military intelligence.

Defensores de derechos humanos |

The letter refers to the rally which took place on Sept. 1 outside the headquarters of this organization, by demonstrators who identified themselves as "Nationalist movements and Active Reserve of Colombia" and using banners and slogans, discredited the work of the Lawyers Collective, and incited the physical elimination of its members.

We therefore consider it vital to transcribe below the text of our letter

D.C. Bogotá, September 11, 2010

Doctor
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERON
President of the Republic of Colombia
City.

Reference: Request for guarantees for members of the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers Collective and their families

Mr President

In our capacity as defenders of human rights, members of the Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo"-CAJAR- a non-governmental organization for the defense of human rights, through this letter we request your immediate intervention to prevent imminent attacks against us, which even threaten our fundamental right to life.

In expectation of a timely and appropriate response, we would like to bring to your attention the following facts and considerations:

1. Preparation of an attack against members of our institution: Last week we received, from a credible source, information that someone was preparing an attempt on the life of a lawyer from CAJAR, a plan that would involved military intelligence sector related to recent events that invite physical elimination of our organization.

2. A rally was held calling for the elimination of CAJAR: On September 1 a rally was announced and held against CAJAR in Santander Park opposite the entrance to the Avianca building, from the 25th floor of which our organization operates. This rally was organized by people calling themselves "The National Movements and Active Reserve of Colombia" and ACORE. Among the participants were of the former Senator Enrique Gómez Hurtado, Mr. Jaime Restrepo, legal director of Uno America and Mr. Rodrigo Obregon, President of the Wounded Colombia Foundation (Fundación Colombia Herida), among others.

During the event, banners were displayed and slogans chanted that became a direct incitement to eliminate us, through injury, slander and insults that were repeated in some of the media. We are called terrorists, members of the guerrillas, traitors to the fatherland, protagonists of the "legal war" against the military, among other expressions. The participants most emphatically directed their grievances against the CAJAR lawyers who work for victims of the Palace of Justice.

Such aggression is a retaliation against the energetic work of CAJAR to hold those responsible for gross violations of human rights and seek justice at the national or international level.

This call for our elimination under the slogan "NO MORE COLLECTIVE," encouraged by sectors of the military, constitutes criminal conduct on various grounds that the judicial authorities are required to investigate and punish. Similar expressions in the past have preceded death threats and other acts of harassment, which led to exile to members of our human rights organization. For this reason, this act cannot be justified or nderstood as an exercise of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. Such a claim should therefore be rejected by the High Government.

3. Persistent stalking, harassment and interception of CAJAR’s communications: Despite CAJAR having had to make use of security measures from the Inter-American Commission since 2000, during recent months, several of its members, including lawyers, journalists, administrative staff and paralegals, have been the subject of strange calls to their places of residence and mobile phones, either with silence, or using different pretexts to inquire about personal and family data. In one case, on re-dialing the number that had called, number responded "Office of Education and the National Army Doctrine." Similarly, there is evidence of intercepts emails in recent months. Likewise, several members of CAJAR have been followed near their homes and office.

Background

The objective of CAJAR is the overall defence of human rights. Within this context, we give preferential attention to the fight against impunity, with emphasis on the legal representation of victims in pursuit of the defence of their rights to the TRUTH, JUSTICE and FULL REPARATIONS. Our activity is conducted at the national level and also extends to the international protection of human rights.

CAJAR has contributed in the fight against impunity in cases such as the massacre at Mapiripán, the massacre of La Rochelle, the massacre of Alaska, the extrajudicial killing of Senator Manuel Cepeda Vargas, and the extrajudicial murder of the youth of Soacha, trade unionists ( eg members of ANTHOC in Arauca), Indians in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Wiwa people and Kankuamo people), farmers in different regions of the country (eg Cajamarca, Tolu Viejo), cases of enforced disappearances committed over 30 years including those committed in the events known as the "ret-taking of the Courts" courthouse, and many other cases that constitute crimes against humanity they have have compromised the criminal responsibility of members of the military forces with alarming frequency, in collusion with paramilitary organizations.

During its 30 years as a human rights organization, we have been victims of widespread and systematic persecution by the STATE. This practice became more visible during the two mandates of the outgoing government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez, which repeatedly attacked human rights organizations and particularly the CAJAR, as is well known.

In fact, it was during the two administrations of former President Alvaro Uribe that the Administrative Department of Security and Intelligence Agency (DAS) conducted the most massive, illegal and criminal operations to persecute human rights organizations,judges of the High Courts, journalists, independent trade unionists, members of the opposition, and against their family members.

You can read the files seized from DAS the following order:

"Neutralize through destabilizing actions NGOs in Colombia and the world. Identify and neutralize hostile political actions against the constitutional order and the national government, especially from NGOs prone to terrorist organizations. Create awareness about the consequences of a communist system. Raise public awareness about the reality of communist ideology. Prosecute the so-called "objectives or targets" for their actions. Discover, control and discredit their activities. Conduct offensive intelligence operations and psychological warfare, designed to intimidate. Neutralize influence on Inter-American Human Rights Court in Costa Rica. Neutralize influence on the European legal system, the Human Rights Commission of the European Parliament, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and national governments." [free translation]

Actions to achieve the above objectives were not limited to the interception of communications, but extended to so-called strategic intelligence charged with the so-called POLITICAL WAR , including actions to discredit the organization, threats , sabotage, frame-ups, secret or clandestine raids on residential or business sites, rental of living space to perform surveillance, ongoing surveillance and monitoring, data theft, intelligence offensives, infiltration operations, and "psychological warfare" aimed even against children. The DAS went so far to order terrorist explosive, firebomb and technological actions, described in documents seized by the prosecution of the intelligence agency.

In this dark scenario, the special operation called "transmilenio" against CAJAR included substantial resources from public funds, invested with an intent to destroy us, because for major elements within government, particularly the security forces, our legitimate and essential work is seen as part of a "war through the courts" that is a “legitimate” target for elimination.

Concluding remarks

Historically and up to the present, there has been systematic persecution against CAJAR, for which major sectors within the government are ultimately responsible. These people view the demand for justice on behalf of victims of human rights violations as a "war in the courts" linked to the insurgency, and see human rights lawyers as “members or supporters of guerrilla or terrorism."

Our institutional mission is to fight against the systematic violation of human rights and against the systematic impunity that protects and puts the perpetrators of such violations beyond the reach of justice. We are not waging a war in the courts, but rather seek enforcement of the law, the Constitution and international instruments protecting human rights as a necessary condition for the construction of a state of law based on democratic principles and full respect for human rights .
Those who are undermining the state of law, the country, its institutions and democracy are not human rights organizations, which are trying to build such democracy, and continue to call for it, but rather those in power who are systematically violating human rights with the confidence that they will be rewarded with impunity.
We are accused in this campaign of aggression of inventing evidence, infiltrating the judiciary and attacking the effectiveness of the Armed Forces, who are diverted from combat scenes to “face their enemies in court.” Every criminal conviction for violation of human rights is presented as an attack against “troop morale.” In this light, the serious crimes against humanity are seen as an invention of human rights defenders, while the perpetrators are heroes undone by our "unpatriotic actions." Even when confronted with crimes committed in the face of the international community such as events of the Palace of Justice, the reaction has been just as virulent 25 years later.

Mr President,

We come to you directly to request that you immediately take all steps necessary to stop this plan and this campaign against us that may cost us our lives or that of our family members. We ask that you use your constitutional and legal powers to do whatever is necessary to stop attacks against us and other defenders of human rights in Colombia.

We call on you, Mr. President, to ask you to ensure our ability to perform our work on behalf of human rights with the assurance that we will not be subjected to further attacks. We are turning to you to urge you to take measures to prevent deadly attacks against CAJAR, its members and their families.

It is the role of this Government and the State to guarantee our integrity and commitment to free and legitimate defence and promotion of human rights. You must be the first line of defence. Your announced commitment to defend human rights must be made effective, by directing an attitude change within the highest ranks of the military and police with respect to our work, about which we are willing to engage in discussion within a framework of mutual respect. IT is not enough to set out physical protection protocols and measures, if our work is still stigmatized and our lives and physical integrity routinely exposed to possible attacks. We insist on prompt and adequate response, Sr, President Santos, to the concerns we have expressed here.

Sincerely,

RAFAEL BARRIOS MENDIVIL ALIRIO URIBE MUÑOZ

SORAYA GUTIERREZ ARGUELLO JOMARY ORTEGON OSORIO

EDUARDO CARREÑO WILCHES REINALDO VILLALBA VARGAS

DORA LUCY ARIAS GIRALDO LUIS GUILLERMO PEREZ CASAS

MARIA DEL PILAR SILVA GARAY

c.c. Ofifice of the UN High Commission for Human Rights
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Diplomatic Corps, with representation in Colombia
Inter-American Human Rights Commission
US Congress
European Parliament
International human rights organizations
Oversight bodies: Attorney General and Public Defenders’ Office

Afiliaciones

Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

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