PBI-Colombia calls for quick and effective investigations following attacks against CAJAR lawyers

Published by Brent Patterson on

On January 12, PBI-Colombia posted:

“Attacks and defamations persist against @Ccajar. Urgent #guarantees and quick and effective investigations on material and intellectual authorship [are needed].”

The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has accompanied the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR) since 1995.

El Espectador reports:

Despite the fact that there are currently protection measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the Lawyers’ Collective, the attacks against their lawyers, defenders of serious human rights cases, continue.

On Monday 8 January, Santiago Salinas reported having been the victim of a physical attack against him and his wife, Erika Isabel Prieto Jaime, also a human rights defender.

Photo: CAJAR lawyer Santiago Salinas.

The incident took place in a supermarket on 26th Street in Bogotá at 3:10 p.m. The couple noticed the presence of two women talking about them and pointing at them. Prieto’s reaction was to record with his cell phone to record the situation, because they have not already suffered multiple aggressions and threats against their lives.

The lawyer says that he immediately recognized the women and recalled that they had been present in different institutional spaces of the Cajar, generating scandals and sabotage. But this time, as seen in a video, they did much more than verbal aggression.

When the couple began to record the two women, the lawyer details, “they reacted violently and began to shout that they knew who I was, they mentioned the place where my wife worked and precise information about other members of the Cajar.”

In addition, they say that they were later accused of having hacked their cell phones and assured that they all have a complaint in the Prosecutor’s Office.

Likewise, Salinas says: “They yelled at those present and the security people to call the police. I started recording after that and the older lady takes a coffee that she had in her hand that is quite hot and throws it at me.” As a result, the lawyer suffered burns to his chest.

Video.

The organization notes that the affected people are part of the team that monitors the interference practices and impacts of some companies in the ultra-processed and sweetened beverages industry, as well as processes of socio-environmental impacts in territories by transnational companies. This, within the framework of the campaign “Sweet Poison – the antidote is the truth”.

After the incidents, the defenders explain that the two women tried to escape, but the supermarket’s security prevented them from doing so, following the instructions of Erika Prieto, who asked to wait for the police presence.

The police squad took the aggressors to the CAI [Immediate Attention Commands of the Colombian National Police] of Teusaquillo to collect their data and later to the URI [Immediate Reaction Unit of the Attorney General’s Office] of Puente Aranda. There, Cajar’s lawyer denounced the incident and informed the authorities that he had previously seen his aggressor during a public hearing in the Congress of the Republic on business and human rights.

Background

Cajar also indicates other acts allegedly carried out by the two women.

The first, in March 2023, during an event on human rights and business, two women harassed members of Cajar, including lawyer Yessika Hoyos and Diana Marcela Otavo.

The second, at the same event, is said to have followed other human rights defenders such as Diana Otavo and Paz Gaviria, interrupted a public hearing in Congress and harassed the press coordinator of Cajar in La Vega (Cundinamarca). Later, the women allegedly chased Diana Otavo from a television station to the headquarters of former congressman Gustavo Bolívar.

In view of these incidents, the human rights organization asks the Colombian State to take measures to guarantee the safety of those affected and demands that the Prosecutor’s Office carry out a comprehensive investigation to clarify the facts and apply sanctions, underlining the importance of protecting human rights defenders in the country.

The full article can be read at Defensor de derechos humanos del Cajar denuncia ser víctima de ataque físico (El Espectador, January 10, 2024).

Further reading: Ataque físico a abogado defensor de derechos humanos (Agencia Prensa Rural) and Ataques y hostigamiento contra el abogado del CAJAR Santiago Salinas Miranda y Erika Isabel Prieto Jaime (International Federation for Human Rights/FIDH).


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