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COLOMBIA: Human rights lawyer María Alejandra Garzón Mora has been subjected to serious threats, cyber-attacks, surveillance and verbal attacks.

 29 June 2022 

Maria Alejandra Garzón Mora is a human rights lawyer and member of the Asociación Red de Defensores y Defensoras, DH Colombia. DH Colombia aims to promote, disseminate, protect and defend human and peoples’ rights. It is an interdisciplinary group that provides comprehensive defence for victims of human rights violations, both individually and collectively. 

The Observatory has received information about numerous threats to the lawyer María Alejandra Garzón Mora from September 2020 to date, with a higher frequency in 2021. The lawyer is the victim of various attacks: cyber-attacks, constant surveillance, as well as verbal attacks.  The threats received are directly aimed at her work as a legal representative of the victims of the protests that took place in Colombia as part of the national strike in April 2021.  

The lawyer is subject to constant monitoring and surveillance, both by police officers and by strangers near her home and office.  In addition, María Alejandra is subject to cyber-attacks, telecommunications breakdowns and interception of calls with clients, colleagues and family members. The incidents occur most often in the context of hearings or crucial dates in cases in which she represents interests as a lawyer. These attacks constitute a serious breach of professional secrecy and impede the free and independent exercise of the profession. 

Due to her high level of risk and insecurity, Alejandra Garzón began to benefit from the protection regime granted by the Investigation and Indictment Unit (hereinafter, UIA), an entity belonging to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), in March 2021.  Faced with the UIA’s decision to reduce the protection measures in February 2022, the lawyer filed a guardianship application with the JEP. The guardianship ruling SRT-ST-088/2022 of 16 May recognised the extraordinary risk suffered by the lawyer and invited the UIA to reassess the lawyer’s status within two months. Until the new risk assessment is carried out, the protective measures initially adopted will be maintained.   

The Observatory is concerned about these acts of intimidation which endanger the free and independent practice of the legal profession.  

The Observatory strongly condemns the attacks on lawyer María Alejandra Garzón Mora and calls on the Colombian authorities to investigate and punish the perpetrators with all due diligence, without impunity.  

The Observatory calls on the Colombian authorities to ensure the cessation of all attacks against lawyer María Alejandra Garzón and other human rights lawyers in Colombia. 

In this context, the Observatory recalls that the independence of the legal profession is one of the main indicators of democratic health and the consolidation of the rule of law. This is in line with the provisions of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers. 

The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger calls on : 

The Investigation and Prosecution Unit of the JEP and the National Protection Unit to maintain the current individual protection regime for María Alejandra Garzón Mora and to expedite the granting of a collective regime for the organisation DH Colombia with immediate and sufficient resources to strengthen the security conditions of her office. 

The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia to investigate the circumstances, manner, time and place in which the threats were made and to enable the investigation and punishment of those responsible.