José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR) is a human rights organization with more than 40 years of experience in representing victims of the armed conflict before national and international bodies. Recently, with the implementation of peace agreements and more in particular transitional justice mechanisms embedded into the recently established Integral System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition, CAJAR has actively participated in documenting and reporting crimes involving state actors.
Attorney Sebastián Escobar Uribe is one of CAJAR lawyers who has participated in the documentation of crimes committed by members of police and armed forces which involved conducting arbitrary detention and extrajudicial execution of civilians who were reported as members of illicit groups killed as a result of armed confrontation.
The so-called “false positives” which have been qualified by judicial operators as crimes against humanity. In addition to submitting reports, Sebastián Escobar has also intervened in front of the International Criminal Court following the preliminary examination of Colombian case by the Prosecutor whose assessment focuses, among others, on above mentioned crimes.
On 22 February, lawyer Sebastián Escobar Uribe, a member of CAJAR and representative of Díaz Chamorro family, recognised as victims before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), was threatened in a phone call.
Sebastián Escobar Uribe is one of the CAJAR lawyers who has participated in the documentation of extrajudicial executions known publicly as “false positives”. Crimes that have been qualified by judicial operators as crimes against humanity and for which members of the security forces are responsible. In the exercise of his profession, in addition to the presentation of reports, he has also acted before the International Criminal Court in the context of the preliminary examination of Colombia, which, among others, focuses on this type of crimes.
Sebastián Escobar Uribe received a call on his mobile phone that lasted 33 seconds, in which a man threatened to kill him and Juan David Díaz Chamorro. Juan David Díaz Chamorro is the son of Edualdo Díaz Salgado, mayor of El Roble (Sucre), who was assassinated on 10 April 2003.
Lawyer Sebastián Escobar Uribe links this threat to the recent actions he has carried out, on behalf of the Díaz Chamorro family, before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). These proceedings follow the voluntary submission as a third party of the former governor of Sucre, Salvador Arana Sus, already convicted in 2009 by the Supreme Court of Justice for the murder of the mayor of El Roble (Sucre).
On 11 February 2021, Juan David Díaz Chamorro was admitted as a victim by the Legal Definitions Chamber of the JEP, after submitting his application in search of truth and justice.
Minutes before Sebastián Uribe received the threat, the Chamber of the JEP notified the victims’ representation about the call to a hearing to Arana Sus which will take place 11 and 12 March 2021. This threat is intended to intimidate the lawyer and his client in the process.
The OIAD strongly condemns the threats against lawyer Sebastián Escobar Uribe and his client Juan David Díaz Chamorro.
The OIAD wishes to remind 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 United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers:
« Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; » (Principle 16)
« Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities. » (Principle 17)
COLOMBIA: The Observatory demands justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition for lawyer Sebastián Escobar Uribe and the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
According to the information published by Semana magazine on May 3rd, 2020 -later disseminated by other national and international media- members of the Public Force had used IT software initially designed to persecute and investigate crimes to survey and monitor 130 individuals, including journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, officials and political representatives. Reportedly, unlawfully and in absence of a police or a judicial investigation.
Moreover, on May 15th, 2020, the Supreme Court of Justice decided to open an investigation against the former President Alvaro Uribe following allegations and possible evidence gathered pursuant to which, the current senator might have benefitted from the information obtained illegally.
This would confirm that intelligence services would have been provided not in the service crime investigation and prosecution but against innocent individuals who lawfully undertake actions targeted at defending human rights in the country. Once again and with the memories of the illegal surveillance and criminal activity conducted by the former Administrative Department of Security and the lack cases brought in front of national courts.
In the light of this information, the OIAD recalls 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 United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and in particular Principles 16 and 17, which state:
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; […]; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Principle 16).
“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities” (Principle 17).
In this connection, the OIAD addressed a letter on 8 June to the President of the Republic of Colombia, Mr Iván Duque, with a view to expressing its support for CAJAR and lawyer Sebastián Escobar and submitting for his consideration the following requests:
- Adopt the necessary measures to immediately cease all illegal spying and surveillance work against the José Alvear Restrepo Collective and all affected persons and organizations;
- To publicly recognise the work carried out by individuals and groups who, like the lawyer Sebastián Escobar and CAJAR, contribute decisively and within the framework of the law to building a fairer and more democratic society;
- Adopt effective protection measures tailored to the needs of the people concerned;
- To ensure that all relevant evidentiary information is submitted to the justice system and the corresponding authorities in order to clarify the facts, identify those responsible and bring them to trial and impose penalties, without allowing the continuation of practices of concealment, persecution, threats and pressure against members of the National Army who, as direct witnesses of the events, have given their statements to the justice system.
- Promote the design of a policy aimed at dismantling the structures that have given rise to the reported events and offer guarantees of non-repetition.
- Promote spaces for dialogue with civil society actors on the limits to intelligence work in a democracy, the purging of these bodies, as well as the declassification, correction and delivery of all information acquired illegally or illegitimately against individuals and human rights organizations.
Find the full version of the alert (in Spanish) HERE.