PBI accompanies lawyers and legal processes, seeks to connect lawyers in Latin America and Canada

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: PBI-Guatemala accompanied BDH human rights lawyers at a hearing of ex-army officers accused of extrajudicial executions, June 7.

Peace Brigades International accompanies lawyers and legal processes in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

This includes the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) and Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) in Colombia, the legal team at Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC), lawyer Edgar Pérez Archila and the Human Rights Law Firm (BDH) in Guatemala, and lawyers with the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre and Juan Carlos Flores, the lawyer for the Peoples’ Front in Defence of Land and Water (fighting the PIM gas pipeline-plant-aqueduct megaproject) in Mexico.

The dangers these lawyers face are real. In Colombia alone, over 400 lawyers have been killed since 1991. Colombian lawyer Alirio Uribe of CCAJAR has stated: “The death sentences against each and every one of us have not been carried out because we are not alone, we have the accompaniment of PBI.”

This week we amplified the concern that CCAJAR lawyer Yessika Hoyos received a death threat on her cellphone while representing the father of a university student who had been killed by the Colombian police during a Special Jurisdiction for Peace hearing.

Last week we noted PBI-Honduras accompanied the CEHPRODEC legal team at the trial of five Indigenous leaders criminalized for defending their territory.

And this month PBI-Guatemala accompanied BDH lawyers during the eight days of first statement hearings for six former military officers in which the defendants were indicted for crimes against humanity and now stand accused of murder, attempted murder, or both relating to the forced disappearance of 20 individuals from 1983 to 1985.

PBI has also been accompanying legal processes including the trial a former hydroelectric dam company executive charged in the murder of COPINH co-founder Berta Caceres in Honduras and a court hearing seeking the release from prison of Maya Q’eqchi’ land defender Bernardo Caal Xol in Guatemala.

Beyond this, PBI-Guatemala interviewed Law Firm for Indigenous Peoples director Wendy Lopez earlier this month about the criminalization of land defenders. That law firm works with 32 Indigenous communities in Guatemala.

PBI-Canada seeks to connect lawyers across borders

Peace Brigades International in Canada is looking at ways to connect the lawyers PBI accompanies in Latin America with lawyers in this country.

We hope to do so through articles about at-risk lawyers in Canadian legal publications, webinars with lawyers (with simultaneous translation), and short interview video clips (with subtitles) with the lawyers we accompany.

The objectives of this initiative include moral support for lawyers in dangerous situations, increasing their profile to reduce the risks they face, and creating opportunities where Canadian lawyers may be able to provide strategic advice or even amicus curiae (friend of the court) statements during a court case or at a key moment in a legal process.

We hope to make these connections with specific bars within law societies, legal associations, public interest law firms, law unions and law students.

Photo: Prior to the pandemic, PBI-Canada organized this meeting between Colombian lawyer Julia Figueroa of  the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective and Kate Gunn of First Peoples Law in Vancouver, November 7, 2019.

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