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El Estado colombiano debe garantizar la libertad del ejercicio de la defensa de los derechos humanos en Colombia. Esto a través de la protección individual y colectiva de los/las líderes sociales, sin olvidar la reparación integral de quienes resulten víctimas y la implementación de una política criminal que garantice la no impunidad. / We emphasize that in relation to the UNP, there is an urgent need for a reengineering process that results in the planning and structuring of sufficient, differentiated, and adequate measures for the leaders. | Dejusticia

Superior Court of Bogotá reaffirms that the right to defend human rights of social justice leaders must be protected

This important ruling confirms the urgent need to guarantee this right for social justice leaders and human rights defenders in their current situation of risk

Por: DejusticiaMay 20, 2020

On May 11, the First Civil Chamber of the Superior Court of Bogota affirmed the protection of ten leaders in Colombia’s right to defend human rights. This important ruling confirms the urgent need to guarantee this right for social leaders and human rights defenders in their current situation of risk.

According to the Court, with respect to social leaders and human rights defenders, the State has a “special duty of protection to guarantee them the exercise of their vital role in society and, of course, their fundamental rights to life and personal integrity.” This duty is heightened by the current situation in the country that has intensified the risk they face. The Somos Defensores [We are Defenders] Program registered 124 murders of social leaders in 2019, and 45 more, solely in the period January through March 2020.

This decision recalled the obligation of the National Government, headed by the Ministry of the Interior, to guarantee, recognize and strengthen the work of defending rights in Colombia through the tools established in the Final Peace Agreement. In that spirit, we hope that the State fully complies with the orders.

One of these tools is the National Roundtable on Guarantees and the territorial roundtables. Its obligation to reactivate is ratified in the second instance ruling and required within two months. This is to provide a platform for the active participation of organizations and community representatives so that solutions to the violations reported by the plaintiffs can be arranged.

We hope that with this reactivation, effective progress will be made towards the implementation of a public policy of security guarantees for the defense of human rights; that the Comprehensive Program of Guarantees for women leaders and human rights defenders will be adopted and executed, and that a human rights commission will be established at the dialogue and consultation roundtable between the government and the communities to address the issue of illicit crops.

Furthermore, the Superior Court confirmed the obligation of the National Protection Unit (UNP for its Spanish acronym) to adopt collective protection measures with a differentiated approach. On this point, the Court affirmed that when there are threats to the life and safety of individuals or groups that are at risk due to their work, such as social leaders and human rights defenders, “the State has an obligation to analyze subjective and objective factors in each case, in order to diligently establish the circumstances of time, manner and place that allow identification, if necessary, of special protection measures that prevent harm from materializing.” We emphasize that in relation to the UNP, there is an urgent need for a reengineering process that results in the planning and structuring of sufficient, differentiated, and adequate measures for the leaders.

Furthermore, in its ruling, the Chamber orders coordinated and participatory action between the Intersectoral Commission for the Rapid Response to Early Alerts, (CIPRAT for its Spanish acronym) and the Early Warning System, (SAT for its Spanish acronym), to prevent attacks against human rights defenders, with periodic reports on the situation. Likewise, it affirms the order to implement resolution 1190: Protocol of action of the public force in the framework of social protest, and determines that these protocols must be adopted at the territorial level.

These points and others ordered in the judgment must be widely shared in a permanent campaign with territorial scope for the recognition, support and respect of the work of human rights defenders, which must be launched in the month following the resolution of the COVID-19 health emergency. Through this campaign, the country can advance in the legitimization and recognition of the important work human rights defenders carry out in the rural and urban areas of Colombia.

Despite these important advances, we will insist on review of the ruling by the Constitutional Court to evaluate the following aspects:

In spite of the advances in the recognition of rights, the revocation, in the second instance, of the requirement on the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation to prioritize investigations for all attacks against human rights defenders is very worrying. In practice, the Attorney General’s Office continues to apply prioritization selectively, that is, only to cases of homicide and not on other attacks experienced by leaders, such as aggression, threats and harassment, and reports figures of solved cases based only on investigative advances on the perpetrators.

According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the obligation to investigate attacks against human rights defenders entails the duty to direct the efforts of the State apparatus to unravel the structures that allowed these crimes, their causes, their beneficiaries, and their effects, and not only discover, prosecute, and punish immediate perpetrators.

For these reasons, we call on the Attorney General’s Office to continue working and demonstrate results of its prioritization of murder cases and cases of different attacks against social leaders, under international and national standards governing investigations.

Before the Constitutional Court, we will also continue to pursue claims that were not included in the first and second rulings, such as the reactivation of the National Commission for Security Guarantees for the dismantling of criminal organizations and the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Security and Protection Program for Communities and Organizations in the Territories provided for in Decree 660 of 2018, as well as the other tools of the Final Peace Agreement.

Finally, we will insist before the highest constitutional court on the State of Unconstitutionality regarding the serious situation that those who carry out the work of defending human rights in Colombia continue to face every day. The importance of this declaration is the activation of available legal mechanisms for the effective protection of social leaders in the country, as well as the creation of judicial mechanisms to monitor compliance with the decision.

The organizations that join the present action for protection are: el Comité de Solidaridad con Presos Políticos [the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners] (CSPP), Comisión Colombiana de Juristas [Colombian Commission of Jurists], Movimiento Ríos Vivos [Ríos Vivos Movement],Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo [José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective] (Cajar), el Centro de Estudios de Derecho Justicia y Sociedad [the Center for Justice and Society Law Studies] (Dejusticia), Asociación Colombiana de Afrocolombianos Desplazados [Colombian Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians] (Afrodes), Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia [National Indigenous Organization of Colombia] (ONIC), Corporación Reiniciar [Reinitiate Cooperation], Asociación Minga [Minga Association], Congreso de los Pueblos [People’s Congress], Marcha Patriótica [Patriotic March], with the support of Somos Defensores [We are Defenders], Sisma Mujer, la Cumbre Agraria, Campesina, Étnica y Popular [the Agrarian, Rural, Ethnic and Popular Summit]. Other social and academic organizations have also joined, including: Universidad ICESI [ICESI University], Universidad Autónoma de México, [Autonomous University of Mexico] UNAM, University of Notre Dame, Universidad Javeriana de Cali [University Javeriana de Cali], Universidad El Rosario [El Rosario University], Human Rights Data Analysis Group, Alianza Iniciativa Mujeres por la Paz [Alliance Initiative for Women for Peace], Sindicato de Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos de la Defensoría del Pueblo [Union of Human Rights Defenders of the Office of the Ombudsman] – SINDHEP, Corporación Desarrollo Solidario (CDS) y la Asociación Sembrando Semillas de Paz [the Association Sowing Seeds of Peace] (Sembrando Paz).

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