Institutional Profile of the Colombian Commission of Jurists


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Institutional Profile of the Colombian Commission of Jurists

  1. 1. Institutional Profile of the Colombian Commission of JuristsMISSION AND OBJECTIVESSince its creation in 1988, this Colombian nongovernmental organization has had a dual purpose: tocontribute towards improving the human rights situation in Colombia and to the development ofinternational human rights law and international humanitarian law worldwide.The first purpose, associated with the situation in Colombia, is divided into two objectives: thevalidity of the social and democratic state under the rule of law, along with the achievement oflasting peace based on human rights (particularly the rights to truth, justice and reparation, and landredistribution as a central element of the armed conflict in Colombia). The second purpose, aimed atdeveloping instruments of international law, is pursued simultaneously with the work that we carryout with respect to Colombia at the international level, but its scope goes beyond the nationalborders and associates us with human rights promotion in the Americas and in the other continentsof the world.To achieve these objectives, and particularly taking into account the most vulnerable populationsectors (indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, peasants, workers, women, children, displacedpopulation), we carry out three main activities: research (or documentation), litigation (or judicialrepresentation of victims) and advocacy (or promotion).RESEARCHIn the field of research, we have a team dedicated to following up on the human rights situation inColombia, which maintains a database on human rights violations in this country that it uses tooperate as an observatory that produces reports aimed at the international human rights supervisorybodies of the United Nations (the Human Rights Council, the rapporteurs and working groups, andthe oversight committees for human rights treaties –the treaty-bodies), the Organization ofAmerican States –OAS- (Inter-American Commission, General Assembly, Permanent Council),International Labor Organization –ILO-, International Criminal Court, international human rightsNGOs, Colombian authorities (Ombudsman’s Office [Defensoría del Pueblo], Inspector General’sOffice [Procuraduría], Judicial Branch, Congress, Government) and the general population.LITIGATIONIn the field of litigation, we represent victims, before both national and international tribunals(Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, HumanRights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Commission for theElimination of Discrimination Against Women). In addition to demanding recognition for the rightsof the victims, the aim is for our judicial actions to lead to rulings that are not limited to theparticular case but instead have an influence on the Colombian authorities so that they will adoptpublic policies to prevent and punish the perpetrators of other similar violations in the future. In thatsense, we do not attempt to take on a disproportionate amount of cases, but rather to promote thosethat could help to generate such corrective measures. In all, we are currently handling more thanone hundred cases, each of which for the most part gives rise to a number of proceedings (acriminal proceeding in Colombia, another administrative proceeding also inside the country, and aproceeding regarding international responsibility before the Inter-American Court), for a total ofmore than 300 proceedings.It should be pointed out that the CCJ has been one of the few human rights organizations that hasagreed to represent victims in proceedings regulated by Law 975 of 2005 (known as the “JusticeCalle 72 # 12 – 65 piso 7 | | | teléfono: (+571) 7449333| fax: (+571) 7432643 | Bogotá, Colombia
  2. 2. and Peace Law”, which awarded reduced punishments to demobilized paramilitary members), a lawthat the CCJ brought suit against along with other organizations. In doing so, we make the greatestpossible efforts to achieve realization within the country of the victims’ rights and to exhaustdomestic appeals processes in order to then, if necessary, bring actions before international bodies.The CCJ is also currently making preparations to carry out additional actions for recognition of therights of victims, especially in the field of lands usurped from the displaced population, under therecently-enacted Law 1448 of 2010, or the “Victims Law”, which, despite undeniable deficiencies,constitutes an important step regarding recognition of the rights of vulnerable populations affectedby the longstanding human rights crisis in Colombia.ADVOCACYIn the field of advocacy, at the national level we work to influence the Colombian Congress and theConstitutional Court to promote legislation and jurisprudence favorable to human rights and toavoid approval or overturn norms contrary to human rights. Thus, for example, by invitation of theConstitutional Court, we participate in follow-up hearings on Ruling T-025 of 2004, regarding thedisplaced population and measures to surmount their status of aspects declared unconstitutional bythat Court. We also carry out activities for human rights promotion before such sectors as academia,the judicial branch, the journalists’ guild and the general population. At the international level, weconstantly interact with the United Nations, with treaty oversight committees, the ILO and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to obtain rulings and recommendations urging theColombian State to adopt measures for protection, prevention, promotion, punishment andreparations in the field of human rights.As part of our lobbying activities, we also promote, jointly with other organizations from differentcountries or of an international character, norms and rulings to develop international human rightslaw and humanitarian law, both at the worldwide level and at the regional level in the Americas.These three main activities provide mutual feedback, so that the research reports serve asdocumentation for litigation and advocacy activities, while our litigation and advocacy make itpossible to identify new needs in the field of research, which we attempt to cover with our team.DESCRIPTION OF THE ORGANIZATIONWe are a group of approximately 50 people (in past years there were 80). We have been recognizedas an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations since 1999, which gives us a voice in UNvenues (although we lack decision-making capacity). We are affiliated with the InternationalCommission of Jurists (headquartered in Geneva) and the Andean Commission of Jurists(headquartered in Lima).HistoryORIGINThe Colombian Commission of Jurists opened its doors in 1988, after the Andean Commission ofJurists (NGO headquartered in Lima) had sent a mission to Colombia to draft a report on thesituation of human rights and particularly the administration of justice. The experience from thisvisit, made in 1987, indicated that it was possible and appropriate to set up a permanent professionalgroup in Colombia to document the human rights situation and to carry out other activities based oninternational human rights and humanitarian law with the aim of helping to resolve the grave humanrights crisis in the country while at the same time working to develop human rights andhumanitarian law at the global level. The team that hosted the 1987 visit was coordinated byGustavo Gallón, attorney and university professor, with support from Federico Andreu and María Page 2 of 8
  3. 3. Teresa Garrido, jurists who were beginning their careers. These three individuals became thenucleus for the permanent professional group, which was initially called the Colombian Section ofthe Andean Commission of Jurists (Comisión Andina de Juristas Seccional Colombiana - CAJSC),and which in 1995 simplified its name to the Colombian Commission of Jurists (ComisiónColombiana de Juristas - CCJ).In the 1980s, the Colombian human rights crisis had considerably intensified, if we take intoaccount that in 1980 there had been 100 people killed or disappeared each year for political reasons,in 1985 there were 1,000 such victims yearly and in 1988 more than 4,000. At the same time,poverty and social exclusion indicators were alarming and were reflected in the fact that nearly 60%of the Colombian population lived below the poverty line and more than 25% below the line ofindigence. The need to create a human rights organization that would specialize in promotinginternational human rights and humanitarian law in Colombia, in the field of civil and political aswell as economic, social and cultural rights, was evident.INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITIONThe CCJ is a reference point for international organizations for the protection of human rights, asare, in addition to those of an intergovernmental nature (Office of the United Nations HighCommissioner for Human Rights, the UN rapporteurs and Working Groups, the committees createdby human rights treaties, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United NationsHigh Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR), nongovernmental organizations that closely followthe situation in Colombia, and for the governments and ambassadors in Colombia from countriesconcerned with the human rights situation in this country.The work of the CCJ has been recognized at the international level. In 1993 it received theAmerican Bar Association Section of Litigations International Human Rights Award. In 1989 theCCJ’s director received the Human Rights Award from Human Rights Watch. In 1997 its director,along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson and fourother distinguished human rights defenders from diverse countries, received the Human RightsAward from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now known as Human Rights First). InDecember of 2008 the CCJ received the “Emilio Mignone” International Human Rights Awardfrom the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the Republic of Argentina.NATIONAL CONTEXTThe importance of its work on behalf of human rights has also been recognized within Colombia.The Constitutional Court frequently requests its opinion regarding legal actions associated withhuman rights and humanitarian law matters. Throughout its existence, the CCJ has promoteddialogue with the government, despite strong differences of views, as a right associated with thedefinition of public policies on human rights. Its verbal and written opinions are closely followed byacademia, the judiciary, the communications media and public opinion in general. In 2002, itsdirector received the Citizens’ Order of Merit in the grade of Commander awarded by the Office ofthe Mayor of Bogotá.Perhaps for the same reasons, the CCJ has also been the target of virulent attacks promoted byhuman rights violators in the press, in the Senate and through other means. It was also discoveredthat from 2003 to 2005 (and possibly in subsequent years) the CCJ was the target of illegalpersecution by the intelligence agency of the office of the President of Colombia, theAdministrative Security Department (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad -DAS), which setup a group to harass human rights defenders, magistrates, journalists and political opponents by Page 3 of 8
  4. 4. keeping tabs on them and their families, issuing threats and carrying out defamatory actions andattacks, all of which is under investigation by the Colombian criminal justice system. Within thecontext of violence afflicting the country, such attacks represent clear threats to the personal safetyof our employees. Nonetheless, the CCJ has continued to work within its mandate, denouncingsituations of human rights violations, presenting cases and demanding that the guilty be brought tojustice, promoting the use of international human rights protection mechanisms in Colombia, andproposing initiatives before state institutions to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights forColombian men and women, in addition to promoting the strengthening of international humanrights and humanitarian law in general.AchievementsWITHIN THE COUNTRYAt the national level, the CCJ has promoted important regulatory developments for human rights inthe country. For example, it was able to influence the 1991 Constitutional Assembly (particularly toachieve recognition of the prevalence of international human rights treaties, definition of the Bill ofRights and restriction of states of siege); in the statutory law on states of exception (1994); and onclassification of the crime of forced disappearance in Colombian legislation (Law 589 of 2000).After years of intense debate, particularly promoted by the International Committee of the RedCross and the CCJ, approval by the Congress was achieved, without reservations, of Protocol II ofthe 1977 Geneva conventions, along with its subsequent signature (Law 171 of 1994). Approvalwas also achieved of the law that created the Human Rights Committees of the Senate and House ofRepresentatives. In the committee that drafted a new military criminal code, convoked by agovernment decision in 1995 (made up of eight members of the Ministry of Defense and eight fromcivil sectors, including the Director of the CCJ), a civil group was set up to draft a proposal as analternative to that of the military, which served as the basis for the new code (Law 522 of 1999).At the same time, through challenges alleging unconstitutionality jointly promoted with other socialand human rights organizations, the CCJ has gotten the Constitutional Court to overturn legislationcontrary to human rights, such as the Defense and National Security Law (Law 684 of 2001, whichpractically authorized militarization of the State, and which was declared unconstitutional by RulingC-251 of 2002), the Antiterrorist Statute (Legislative Act 02 of 2003, which modified theConstitution to permit the detention and interrogation of civilians by members of the military, andwhich was declared unconstitutional by Ruling C-818 of 2004), the Rural Development Statute(Law 1152 of 2007, which violated Convention 169 of the ILO regarding prior consultation withindigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples, and which was declared unconstitutional by Ruling C-175of 2009), the State of Exception declared by Decree 2002 of 2002 (which awarded exorbitantpowers to the military authorities over the civilian population, and which was declared partiallyunconstitutional by Ruling C-122 of 2003), and various regulations of Law 975 of 2005, whichregulated judicial proceedings for decreasing punishments of demobilized paramilitary members(Ruling C-370 of 2006), among other important provisions.The CCJ is a member of the National Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons(Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas Desaparecidas), created by Law 589 of 2000,presided by the Ombudsman’s Office. It is also part of the coordinating commission with thegovernment to follow up on recommendations formulated before the Inter-American system forclarifying truth and reparation in the cases of the massacres of Los Uvos, Caloto and Villatina. Itwas also part of the commission for clarification of the violent events of Trujillo (1994-1995).IN THE INTER-AMERICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM Page 4 of 8
  5. 5. Through its work with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of theOrganization of American States, significant resolutions by this body have been obtainedestablishing State responsibility in diverse cases of human rights violations and urging thegovernment to compensate victims’ family members and bring the guilty to justice. It should bepointed out that before the CCJ was founded, Colombian cases before the OAS were practically at astandstill and no definitive ruling had been issued in any of them. In 1988 the IACHR found theState responsible for the forced disappearance of Luis Fernando Lalinde, which had taken place in1984. It was the first case decided by that body involving Colombia. It had been denounced by thepresident of the Human Rights Committee of Antioquia, Héctor Abad Gómez M.D., who was killedin 1997, after which representation in the case was taken up by the CCJ.In 1992, the Inter-American Commission decided to submit a case involving Colombia forconsideration by the Inter-American Court, which was the forced disappearance of Isidro Caballeroand María del Carmen Santana, and which had been denounced before the Commission by the CCJ.In 1995, for the first time in its history, the Inter-American Court handed down a ruling condemningthe Colombian State for those disappearances.The CCJ obtained rulings in the first five cases involving Colombia before the Inter-AmericanCommission and in the first case before the Inter-American Court, in addition to five subsequentcases before that same Court (Las Palmeras, 2001; 19 comerciantes, 2004; Ituango, 2006; PuebloBello, 2006; and Jesús María Valle, 2008), and encouraged other Colombian human rightsorganizations to carry out international actions in which they had previously not taken part. TheCCJ also contributed towards the enactment in 1996 of Law 288, which recognizedrecommendations by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and those of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as being obligatory in relation to individualcases.IN THE UNIVERSAL SYSTEM OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURTAt the United Nations, the work of the CCJ has led to a series of important declarations anddecisions regarding Colombia. In particular, declarations by the President of the Commission onHuman Rights, adopted every year by consensus from 1996 until 2005, the last year of existence ofthe Commission (which was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council); the resolutionon Colombia issued by the Subcommission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection forMinorities (1994); and the observations and conclusions by treaty-bodies, such as the Human RightsCommittee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee AgainstTorture, the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Committee on the Rightsof Children.The 1996 Declaration by the President of the Commission on Human Rights was of greatimportance, as it analyzed the human rights situation in Colombia based to a considerable extent onarguments made by the Colombian organizations, and requested the High Commissioner to open anoffice in Colombia with the twofold mandate of supervising the human rights situation in thecountry (through analytical reports submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights) andproviding technical assistance both to the State and Colombian civil society. The office was openedin 1997; to a considerable extent, it was the result of persistent and systematic work carried outsystematically during seven years by the CCJ before the United Nations and the member countries,in close coordination with national and international NGOs. Subsequently, the CCJ has continuedworking to contribute towards development of the mandate of this office and its permanence inColombia, in that recent administrations, including the current one, have attempted to terminate its Page 5 of 8
  6. 6. presence in the country or to limit its function, which would signify a grave setback in relation tothe goal of improving the human rights situation in Colombia.The CCJ serves as advisor to the Colombian trade union federations before the ILO, and in thiscapacity has contributed towards the adoption of important rulings regarding Colombia, thecarrying out of special visits to the country by this body, the constitution of the good offices missionand the naming of an ILO representative in Colombia.The CCJ also contributed, along with numerous human rights organizations from around the world,to the creation of the International Criminal Court in 1998, approval of the Rome Statute by theColombian Congress and adhesion by the government in 2002. Since then, the CCJ has constantlyacted before the ICC by providing information on cases that would fall within its jurisdiction andwhich the CCJ aims for the ICC to at some point take up. At the same time, for a number of yearsthe CCJ has carried out systematic activities at the United Nations aimed at the adoption ofinternational norms such as the Set of Principles on the Right of Victims to Bring Actions andObtain Reparations, the Declaration on the Right to Defend Human Rights, and the InternationalConvention on Forced Displacement of Persons, among other instruments.CCJ AND PERSPECTIVES ON PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN COLOMBIAThe CCJ’s activity become more necessary and important today due to the possibility of peacenegotiations between the government and guerrillas as a consequence of the beginning of formaltalks on this issue in October 2012. CCJ has consistently supported the initiative of achieving anegotiated solution to the Colombian armed conflict, based on the effective implementation ofvictim’s rights to Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Repetition. The solidity of aneventual peace process in Colombia depends to a large degree on the respect for victim’s rights andon its conformity with obligations stablished about this subject by international human rights lawand international humanitarian law. CCJ pretends continuing to display its activities on litigation,research and advocacy in order to reach the improvement of human rights situation in Colombia andthe development of international human rights and humanitarian law at the global level, such that allthis contribute to a firm and enduring peace and to the empire of the social and democratic rule oflaw in the country.Bogotá, October 2012 Page 6 of 8
  8. 8. Organization Chart GENERAL ASSEMBLY Federico Andreu Ana María Díaz María Teresa Garcés Gustavo Gallón Enrique Ordoñez Marina Pulido de Barón Hernando Valencia-Villa Humberto Sánchez BOPARD OF DIRECTORS Ana María Díaz Antonio Madariaga Maria Eugenia Sánchez DIRECTOR’s OFFICE Director: Gustavo Gallón Secretary: María Herrera PLANNNIG, ADMINISTRATION Communications: AND FINANCES DEPUTY DIRECTION DEPUTY DIRECTION DEPUTY DIRECTION Mónica Oyuela FOR RESEARCH FOR LITIGATION FOR ADVOCACY • PA&F Manager: Martha Lucía Bejarano • Deputy Director for • Deputy Director for Research: Advocacy: Vacant • Plannig Coordinator: Sol Natalia Ana María Díaz Giraldo • Representative before U.N.: • Researcher on Displacement: • Deputy Director for Litigation: Federico : Ana María Rodríguez • Project Manager: Nelly Rodríguez Juan Manuel Bustillo Andreu • Labor Rights Law yer: • Project Assistant: Sandra Orjuela • Researcher on Civil and Political • Litigation Inter-American System Vacant • Project Intern: Juliana Sepúlveda, Rights: Sandra Milena Gómez Coordinator : Camilo Mejía • Coordinator National Angela Gónima • Civil and Political Rights Assistant: • Domestic Litigation Coordinator : Leonid Advocacy: Fátima Esparza • Accountant: Constanza Rubio Mariana Medina Ávila • Law yer National Advocacy: • Treasurer Assistant: Angélica • Archive and Press Assistant: • Litigation Law yers: Sandra Gamboa - Juan Camilo Rivera Martínez Clara Inés Gaitán Alejandro Malambo - Milton Bello • Assistants National • Accountant Assistant: John Rojas • Webmaster/Documentation • Assistant Legal Protection OAS: Vacant Advocacy: Mary Díaz- Center: Diego Galindo • Jonathan Riveros • Systems Engineer: David Gómez Assistant Legal Protection: Felipe León • Statistics Expert: Vacant • • Assistant Universal System: • General Services: Carlos Fonseca Psychologist: Diego Fernando Abonía - Consuelo Castellanos - Soleny • Researchers Unionists-EU: Laura • Secretaries: Clemencia Jiménez - Isabel Mejía Herrera Viviana Flórez -Federico Giraldo– Yaneth Delgado • Law yers Labor Rights: Anais Pagot Fanny del Pilar Peralta– • Messenger: Jairo Báez Viviana Bohorquez • Receptionist: Claudia Benavidez • Secretary: Eufemia Lizcano • Sena Apprentice: Jessica BarrigaBogotá, October 2012 Page 8 of 8