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UA 108/94 - Colombia: fear for safety: Dr Rafael Barrios Mendivil

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 23/028/1994

There is serious concern for the safety of Dr Rafael Barrios Mendivil who has decided to return to Colombia to continue his work as a human rights lawyer. He left the country in October 1993 after receiving death threats. He is President of the human rights lawyers' association, Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo. Concerns for his safety are heightened by the virtual impunity with which members of the Colombian security forces continue to commit human rights abuses.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/28/94
Distr: UA/SC
UA 108/94 Fear for Safety 17 March 1994
COLOMBIA Dr Rafael BARRIOS MENDIVIL, human rights lawyer
Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of Dr Rafael Barrios
Mendívil who has decided to return to Colombia to continue his work as a human
rights lawyer. He left the country in October 1993 after death threats were
made against him because of his work in the defence of human rights. The fear
for Dr Barrios' safety is heightened by the fact that members of the Colombian
armed and security forces continue to commit human rights abuses with virtual
impunity, and despite investigations, no one has been brought to justice for
issuing the threats against him.
Dr Barrios is President of the human rights lawyers' association Corporación
Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo which offers legal assistance to
victims of human rights violations. He has worked on many important cases
in which members of the security forces have been implicated as perpetrators
of abuses. One of these cases concerned the massacre of at least 20 Paez indians
on 16 December 1991 by members of the Colombian police force. Two other lawyers
working on behalf of the Paez indians were killed, apparently as a result of
their work on the case. Dr Barrios too began to receive anonymous phone calls,
threatening him with death if he continued to work on the massacre investigation.
On 31 August 1993, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action on behalf
of Dr Barrios as there was serious concern for his safety. In addition to
threats, he was being followed by vehicles believed to belong to the army.
The Colombian authorities were urged to investigate the threats and harassment
and to take all possible measures to guarantee his safety. (See UA 297/93,
AMR 23/51/93). Although Amnesty International was informed that the Colombian
authorities had initiated investigations into the threats against Dr. Barrios,
no results of these were made public, and no one has been brought to justice.
Dr Barrios continued to be threatened and in October decided to leave Colombia
for a place of safety.
Despite the danger, Dr. Rafael Barrios has now decided to return. In an
interview with Amnesty International before leaving, he stated:
"As soon as I go back to Colombia in March and resume my human rights activities,
the threats will recommence. But we cannot allow the security forces to have
their own way and to force us to abandon our work in defence of human rights...
I am not a martyr nor a hero, but there is no way I can give in."
"En cuanto regrese a Colombia en marzo y vuelva a mis actividades de derechos
humanos, las amenazas comenzarán otra vez. Pero no podemos permitir que las
fuerzas de seguridad se salgan con la suya y nos hagan abandonar nuestra labor
de defensa de los derechos humanos... Yo no soy ni un mártir ni un héroe,
pero de ninguna manera puedo darme for vencido".
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
In recent years widespread and systematic human rights violations have occurred
in Colombia, including extrajudicial executions, "disappearance", torture and
arbitrary arrest. President César Gaviria Trujillo has repeatedly pledged his
government's commitment to protect human rights. However, members of the
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Colombian armed and security forces continue to commit serious abuses with
virtual impunity. Only exceptionally are perpetrators brought to justice; the
vast majority of members of the armed forces responsible for gross human rights
violations remain in active service.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in Spanish or in your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Dr Rafael Barrios, returning to Colombia
despite repeated threats against his life as a result of his human rights work;
- urging the authorities to take all possible measures to protect the life
of Dr Rafael Barrios and all those who work for the defence of human rights,
so that they can work without fear for their lives;
- inquiring into the results of the investigations initiated by the authorities
into the threats and harrassment of Dr Barrios and urging that these be made
public;
APPEALS TO
1) President of Colombia:
Señor Presidente César Gaviria Trujillo
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: President Gaviria, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 44281 PALP CO
Faxes: + 57 1 286 7434/287 7939
Salutation:Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President Gaviria
2) Procurator General:
Dr. Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla
Procurador General de la Nación
Procuraduría General
Edificio Banco Ganadero
Carrera 5, No. 15-80
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Procurador General Arrieta, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 284 0472
Salutation:Sr. Procurador de la Nación/Dear Dr. Arrieta
3) Advocate for the People:
Dr. Jaime Córdoba Triviño
Defensor del Pueblo
Defensoría del Pueblo
Calle 35 No. 7-25 piso 5
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams:Defensor del Pueblo Trivino, Defensoria del Pueblo,
Bogota, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 288 6683
Salutation: Estimado Dr Triviño/Dear Dr. Triviño
4) Attorney General
Dr. Gustavo de Greiff Restrepo
Fiscal General de la Nación
Fiscalia General de la Nación
Apartado Aéreo 29855
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
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Telegrams:Fiscal General,Fiscalia General,Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 287 0939
Salutation: Estimado Dr. de Greiff/Dear Dr. de Greiff
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
Lawyers' Association:
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados
AA 44456
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
and to diplomatic representatives of Colombia accredited to your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 27 April 1994.

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