Colombia: Arbitrary detention of lawyer Johan Sebastián Moreno Castro and possible criminalization
On May 4th, 2021, human rights lawyer Johan Sebastián Moreno Castro was arbitrarily and violently arrested by police officers in Piedecuesta while verifying a protest.
Johan Sebastián Moreno Castro is a human rights lawyer and member of Equipo Jurídico Pueblos of Buracamanga, Santander. As a human rights organisation, Equipo Jurídico Pueblos specialises in the defence of territory, the fight against state impunity and the release of political prisoners. In 2019 the president of this organisation, Rommel Durán, was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.
The arbitrary and violent arrest of lawyer Johan Sebastián took place on 4th May during a protest. This protest toke place in the context of the ongoing repression of social protests in Colombia.
According to witnesses present at the time of the arrest, the officers repeatedly beat Johan Sebastián. The lawyer reported physical and psychological ill-treatment, pressuring him to testify that he had attacked the officers before being arrested. On 5th May 2021, a Specialised Prosecutor granted the lawyer habeas corpus and ordered his release, finding that the detention had been unlawful.
However, the investigation file of the lawyer was referred to a local prosecutor in Piedecuesta, which raises concerns that this could lead to an attempt to criminalise the lawyer on charges of “attacks on authority”.
The OIAD strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment suffered during his detention by lawyers Johan Sebastian Moreno Castro.
The OIAD reminds the Colombian authorities that the independence of lawyers is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;” (Principal 16)
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.” (Principal 17)
The OIAD reminds the Colombian authorities that Colombia has ratified and signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which recognises the right to peaceful assembly:
“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” (Principal 21)