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. | Dejusticia

Court rules in favor of social leaders and orders that the right to defend human rights be guaranteed

The decision emphasized that the fundamental rights of human rights defenders are not suspended at any time and that includes states of emergency. Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be an excuse for not complying with the orders of this decision.

Por: DejusticiaApril 3, 2020

The 45th Civil Court of the Bogotá Circuit protected the fundamental rights of a group of Colombian social justice leaders and ordered the National Government to protect their rights even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision emphasized that the fundamental rights of human rights defenders are not suspended at any time and that includes states of emergency. Therefore, the COVID-19 emergency cannot be an excuse for not complying with the orders. 

The judge stressed that, despite the emergency and the confinement measures, the assassination of social justice leaders continues, which could demonstrate that we are in the presence of criminal organizations that would seek the extermination of this population. The ruling recognizes a systematic failure of the State in its duty to protect the social justice leaders. This occurs because, despite the different legal instruments, the National Government fails to clearly identify risk factors and to define adequate prevention policies. The Government has not given satisfactory results in its criminal policy to offer truth, justice and reparation to leaders and victims.

The ruling establishes that the State must adopt public policies that allow the rights of social justice leaders in the country to materialize. Likewise, it affirms that the State must guarantee that human rights defenders freely carry out their activities; protecting them when they are subject to threats; generating the conditions for the eradication of violations by state agents or individuals; and effectively investigating the violations committed against them.

Protection policies must have both an individual and a collective approach. Therefore, the State must adopt collective security measures, recognize and promote community work and guarantee non-impunity so that there is no fear in the exercise of the defense of human rights and this activity can continue. It also recognizes the importance of adopting differential approaches in protection measures, for gender, ethnic-racial and cultural cases.

The Judge brings up that the situation that led the Court 22 years ago to declare the Unconstitutional State of Affairs in the protection of social justice leaders (T-590 of 1998) is a reality that not only continues, but is aggravated. For this reason, it issues 17 orders, the main ones being:

Main Orders

– Protect the fundamental right to defend human rights of the social leaders who filed the legal action.

– Reactivate the main spaces for dialogue between the National Government and social organizations: the National Guarantees Board and the Territorial Guarantees Board. In this sense, it orders the effective participation of the communities to elaborate and implement the policies that guarantee The Right to Defend Human Rights in Colombia.

– Order the Presidency of the Republic to adopt measures against stigmatization such as carrying out a permanent public campaign, with territorial scope and aimed at the general public, that recognizes the important work of human rights defenders, which will be disseminated in the media public and private.

– Order the Attorney General’s Office an adjustment in criminal policy to prosecute crimes against social justice leaders so that it is more effective in identifying the people and / or organizations that commit the crimes, the respective sanction is imposed, and ensure non-impunity.

In conclusion, the Colombian State must guarantee the freedom of the exercise of the defense of human rights in Colombia. This through the individual and collective protection of the social justice leaders, without forgetting the comprehensive reparation of those who are victims and the implementation of a criminal policy that guarantees non-impunity. These are measures that must be taken even in the midst of the current state of emergency by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: The organizations that participated in the protection were the Center for the Study of Law, Justice and Society  (Dejusticia), Ríos Vivos, the Solidarity Committee with Political Prisoners, the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective, the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ ), the Colombian Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (Afrodes), the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Restart Corporation, the Minga Association, the Peoples Congress and Patriotic March; with the support We Are Defenders, Sisma Mujer, the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit. Other social organizations and academia have supported this action including: ICESI University, Autonomous University of Mexico- UNAM, University of Notre Dame, Javeriana University of Cali, El Rosario University, Human Rights Data Analysis Group, Alliance for Women for Peace Initiative, Union of Human Rights Defenders of the Office of the Ombudsman – SINDHEP, Solidarity Development Organization (CDS) and Association Sowing Seeds of Peace (Sowing Peace).

More information: dejusticia.org/english

Mayra Báez: [email protected]

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