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Colombia
13.09.13
Urgent Interventions

On the third anniversary of the detention of renowned Colombian human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo, International organisations express concern

14 September 2013 marks three years sincerenowned human rights defender David Ravelo Crespo, member of the director’sboard of the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS)based in the city of Barrancabermeja (Colombia), was detained. As InternationalNGOs and networks, we would like to reiterate concerns regarding aseries of irregularities that were reported throughout the proceedings which resulted in hisconviction and sentencing to 220 months in prison.

Reiterating our upmost respect for theindependence of the judiciary in Colombia, we believe that it is of fundamentalimportance that national and international guarantees relating to due processand the right to a fair trial are respected. In this regard, we again wish tohighlight a series of irregularities that were reported during the trialagainst Mr. Ravelo Crespo.

According to thedefence lawyers, these irregularities have undermined the defence of Mr. RaveloCrespo and the integrity of the subsequent conviction. Among these irregularities, lawyersdenounce the legitimacy of the prosecutor who led the investigation: ProsecutorWilliam Pacheco Granados, from the Prosecutor’s Office no. 22 of the NationalCounter Terrorism Unit. Mr Pacheco Granados was previously a lieutenant in the NationalPolice in Armenia (Quindío, Colombia) and was investigated by the Inspector´s General Office (Procuraduría)[1] He was subsequentlyremoved from his post by this authority as a result of his alleged involvementin the disappearance of William Hurtado Parra in Armenia in 1991.[2] In November 1993, MrPacheco Granados was sentenced to one year in prison by a military court.According to Colombian law, this disqualifies him from the exercise of anyfuture employment in the prosecution service. On 23 April 2013, a criminal complaintwas filed against him for his involvement in this case of enforceddisappearance. In July 2013, Mr Pacheco Granados resigned; however, theAttorney General has still not ruled on the issue of his disqualification.

On 4 September 2013, the Bar Human RightsCommittee of the Bar of England and Wales (BHRC) presented an Amicus Curiae[3] in the case of DavidRavel Crespo before the Superior Court of Santander (Colombia). The Amicus wasendorsed by the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society, the ColombianCaravana UK Lawyers Groups, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives andother lawyers with an interest in the human rights situation in Colombia. Asstated by Kirsty Brimelow QC, president of the BHRC, “the problems in this case affect not only David Ravelo, but also theworking of due process in Colombia and its compliance with international law,which serves to assist in the administration of justice”.

Since Mr. Ravelo Crespo has been detained,national and international bodies have highlighted his case and the lack ofcompliance with national and international standards of due process. InMarch 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judgesand Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation ofHuman Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, sent a combined communiqué to theColombian Government in response to the detention of Mr. Ravelo Crespo. Inthis communiqué they expressed their concern that the “criminalisation of David Ravelo occurs in the context of increasingprosecutions against human rights defenders in Colombia”.[4] We also recall that during the 22nd sessionof the UN Human Rights Council, a resolution was adopted without veto urgingStates to ensure greater protection of human rights defenders and to, above all,end the use and abuse of national legislation to criminalise the activities ofhuman rights defenders, limit their access to international funding or limit theirrights to freedom of expression or assembly.

David Ravelo Crespo is an internationallyrenowned human rights defender. He has won several awards such as the San PedroClaver Award from the Diocese of Barrancabermeja in 2009 and was one of the sixfinalists for the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award for human rights defenders.[5] Furthermore, in 2013 he has beennominated for the National Human Rights Defenders Awards in Colombia andCREDHOS has been nominated for the 2013 Human Rights Award for the city ofWeimar (Germany).

In light of the above, theundersigned International NGOs and networks request:

- That the international community speaksout against violations of national and international standards of due processand the right to fair trial. In this regard, we also request that cases ofcriminalisation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders are closelymonitored to guarantee that they are not used merely to sanction activities indefense of human rights.

- That the Colombian State and theAttorney General's Office take all necessary measures to ensure compliance withColombian law. Specifically in this case, that the measures outlined in Law270/1996, Law 938/2004 and Decree 261/2000 relating to ’Special Incapacity’ areimplemented, whereby no one shall be appointed to or hold office in theAttorney General's Office who has been removed from any public office, as hasbeen the case with Mr William Pacheco Granados.

Signed:

- ABColombia

- ColombiaCaravana UK Lawyers Group

- ColombiaSolidarity Campaign

- Cooperacció

- DialogoInter-Agencial en Colombia - DIAL

- Front Line Defenders

- Iniciativa Solidaria Internacionalista

- Justice for Colombia

- Justicia por Colombia

- Kolko – Derechos Humanos por Colombia

- LawSociety of England & Wales Human Rights Committee

- MISEREOR

- Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos(Organización Mundial contra la Tortura – OMCT y Federación Internacional paralos Derechos Humanos – FIDH)

- Oficina Internacional de Derechos Humanos Acción Colombia – OIDHACO

- Peace Brigades International – PBI – Proyecto Colombia

- Plataforma por la Paz y los Derechos Humanos en Colombia

- Protection International

- Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group

- Taula Catalana per la Pau i el DretsHumans a Colòmbia

- United Steelworkers – USW

- United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

- US Office on Colombia – USOC

- War on Want

- WOLA


[1] Autonomous body which controls and monitors the public function of stateemployees

[2] The Inspector General´s Human RightsDelegate: Resolution 15 of 10 July 1992, Resolution 017 of 22 November 1993 and Resolution2117 of 15 March 1994.

[3] An amicus curiae (literally "friend of thecourt") refers to presentations made by an unrelated third party regarding some point of law or otherrelated matter in order to assist in the resolution of the matter before thecourt.

[4] UN General Assembly Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on theIndependence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, A/HRC/17/30/Add.1, May2011

[5] Front Line DefendersAward 2013

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