COLOMBIA: Adil Meléndez Márquez, human rights lawyer facing threats
On 6 December 2019, Adil Meléndez was threatened by a phone call and filed a complaint with the competent authorities. Mr. Meléndez believes that this threat is directly related to his work as a lawyer, as a defender of alleged perpetrators of human rights violations who have expressed their willingness to appear before the Special Court for Peace (JEP) and tell the truth.
These threats not only hinder Mr. Meléndez’s ability to freely exercise his profession as a lawyer, but also the realization of the right of access to justice and the right of victims to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition, which are the pillars on which the Colombian transitional justice system is based.
Furthermore, the protection regime for Mr. Meléndez has not been sufficiently adapted to respond to the current risk situation. In March 2019, several organizations, including the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger, expressed to the Colombian authorities their concern regarding the revocation in December 2018 of the armoured vehicle provided to him by the National Protection Unit (UNP) and its replacement by an ordinary car. To date, we do not know whether the protection regime in favour of Mr. Meléndez has been strengthened to ensure his safety and whether it is appropriate for a high level of risk.
We also note that because of this high level of risk, Mr. Meléndez has had to seek financial support from Front Line Defenders to put in place additional protective measures at his home and office.
Some of the signatory organisations are working closely with Mr Meléndez and have met with him on several occasions, such as during Mr Meléndez’s last visit to Europe in December 2019. Their work is essential to promote justice and protect human rights in Colombia, particularly in the Caribbean region.
In 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted Mr. Meléndez precautionary measures, in turn requesting the Colombian government to take the necessary measures to protect his physical integrity and allow him to carry out his work. We presume that the IACHR continues to monitor his safety.
The OIAD strongly condemns the threats against lawyer Adil Meléndez Márquez.
The OIAD encourages the Colombian authorities to implement the necessary measures to ensure the life and work of this lawyer by reviewing and renewing his protection regime.
The OIAD fully supports all Colombian human rights lawyers who put their lives at risk for the legitimate exercise of their profession.
The OIAD reminds the Colombian authorities of the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which state that “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (Principle No. 17).