4 May 2023
Soraya Gutierrez Argüello is a human rights lawyer and currently vice-president of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), a human rights organisation with over 40 years’ experience in representing victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. She is also a delegate of the human rights platforms in the National Commission for Security Guarantees, a body created by the Final Agreement for the End of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace, which has been reactivated by the current government and whose function is to determine a public policy for the dismantling of the paramilitary successor groups and their support networks.
On Sunday 30th of April 2023, during the night, two unidentified people illegally entered the home of lawyer Soraya Gutiérrez Argüello. The incident occurred while the lawyer was outside the city of Bogotá and, although there were valuables such as jewellery, only three laptops, two speakers, a camera, as well as valueless items were stolen. The robbery was foiled at 9.56pm by an alert from the property’s caretaker; the intruders fled, leaving the stolen items behind.
When lawyer Gutierrez Argüello arrived at her home, she found all the rooms in complete disarray, as no corner of the house had been spared from the search. The two men had taken enough time to inspect the entire house, leaving a clear message that they had been there and intended to steal her et her family’s information.
The Observatory is concerned to learn that a few days earlier, on 21 April 2023, CAJAR lawyer Juan David Romero had his phone stolen, from which attempts were made to access sensitive information.
Throughout her career, Soraya Gutiérrez Argüello has been the victim of attacks on her life and integrity, such as threats against her and her family, psychological torture, aggression and harassment involving agents of the security forces and intelligence agencies such as the former DAS, which were recently denounced and documented in the case brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Colombian State for the systematic and continuous persecution of CAJAR members.
The Observatory strongly condemns the break-in at the home of lawyer Soraya Gutierrez Argüello Hoyos and calls on the Colombian authorities to investigate and punish with all due diligence both this break-in and the previous threats and harassment, which continue today with impunity.
The Observatory calls on the Colombian authorities to ensure the cessation of all attacks against lawyer Soraya Gutierrez Argüello and other 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 United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers. In particular, Principles 16, 17 and 22 state the following:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or undue interference;(…)”
Principle 17: “Where the safety of lawyers is threatened as a result of the exercise of their functions, they shall receive adequate protection from the authorities”.
Principle 22: “Governments shall recognise and respect the confidentiality of all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients in the course of their professional relations”.