More resources are needed for the justice system in Colombia in order to improve measures to protect human rights lawyers and defenders, a report by the Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group has urged.
The call comes after a delegation of lawyers to Colombia found that human rights defenders, including lawyers, continue to suffer from threats, attacks and obstructions to their work.
Figures by the Caravana show that in the first nine months of 2014, 380 human rights defenders were reported to have been the victims of aggression, more than the number reported for the whole of 2013.
‘In 2014, we heard consistent shocking and detailed eye witness accounts from individuals… just as we heard in 2008,' the report states.
'The difference is that the peace process offers an opportunity for change… at present a combination of lack of resources and apparent lack of political will means that progressive measures like victim compensation and land restitution are not enforced.’
At the launch of the report last night, Sue Willman, a partner at London and Bristol firm Deighton Pierce Glynn and Caravana director, said that although Colombia is not a poor country, resources are not allocated appropriately, leading to a ‘shocking’ lack of investment in some areas.
‘It is hard to think of fellow lawyer David Ravelo sitting in prison, along with other political prisoners, where even the prison officers we met were calling out for more resources,’ she said.
More resources are also needed for protection measures, she added, and said often the best protection people get is a bulletproof vest when it is too hot to wear it or a bulletproof car without a sufficient petrol allowance.
The Caravana group also raised concerns over proposed expansions to the jurisdiction of military courts, which it said suggested a lack of respect for the rule of law.
The group called on the international community to do more to stand up against human rights abuses and recommended that lawyers from law firms and multinationals operating in Colombia advise their clients to take steps to ensure compliance with human rights.