CCAJAR lawyer Yessika Hoyos to speak on Day of the Endangered Lawyer webinar, January 24
Colombian lawyer Yessika Hoyos will be speaking on a Day of the Endangered Lawyer webinar on Monday January 24 at 5:00-7:00 pm EST/COT. To register, please click here. PBI-Colombia has accompanied CCAJAR since 1995.
In this article, Heather Neun and Catherine Morris of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) write: “Colombia has long been one of the most dangerous places in the world for human rights advocates, but the danger intensified in 2020 and 2021 with a surge of massacres and assassinations of human rights defenders and community leaders.”
They highlight: “This year, LRWC is working with the Law Society of Ontario’s Human Rights Committee and Human Rights Watch to organize an online event to discuss the situation of lawyers at risk in Colombia.”
To register for this webinar that includes Yessika Hoyos from the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), please click here.
Neun and Morris note: “More than 700 lawyers were among those killed in Colombia between 1991 and 2013. Between 2017 and 2019 at least three lawyers were killed, along with several attempted assassinations.”
“Added to the attempted and actual murders are numerous death threats. Between 2017 and 2021, at least eight individual lawyers received death threats.”
“Death threats were received by prominent human rights lawyers from CCAJAR, Reinaldo Villalba in 2020, and Yessika Hoyos Morales and Sebastián Escobar Uribe in early 2021. The CCAJAR lawyers’ collective itself received death threats in December 2021, only the latest ominous development in its 40 year history.”
“The longstanding attacks against CCAJAR led the law firm to file a 2001 petition against Colombia before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). The petition set out the pattern of persecution of the organization and its members since the 1990s in the form of attacks, intimidation, and illegal surveillance by state authorities.”
“The persecution continued for years after the petition was filed, the evidence of which the IACHR considered in its 2019 report on the petition’s merits, which found that the Colombian government was responsible for the violation of the rights of CCAJAR members, including their rights to life, personal integrity, freedom of expression and association, movement, and residence.”
“The petition was recently referred to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and will be heard by the Court in 2022.”
What can Canadians do?
Neun and Morris further note: “Colombian human rights lawyers and defenders are in need of solidarity from governments and civil society, including lawyers, in other parts of the world. Canadian lawyers can assist by sparking increased awareness of the situations of lawyers in danger and by becoming engaged in advocacy for their protection.”
“Canadians can [also] encourage the government and Canada’s diplomatic missions in Colombia (and elsewhere) to take concrete actions to apply the [Voices at Risk] Guidelines in consistent and creative ways, contributing to the safety of defenders by demonstrating that ‘the world is indeed watching’.”
To read the full article by Neun and Morris, please see Escalating Threats to Colombian Human Rights Advocates: The Day of the Endangered Lawyer, 24 January 2022.