PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 23/92/99
UA 324/99 Fear for Safety 21 December 1999
COLOMBIAWilliam BEDOYA, human rights lawyer
Corporación Regional de Derechos Humanos (CREDHOS), Regional Human Rights
Corporation and Asociación de Familiares Detenidos y Desaparecidos
(ASFADDES), Association of the Relatives of the Detained and
The shooting, on 14 December 1999, of human rights lawyer William Bedoya in
the city of Barrancabermeja, department of Santander, has raised concern for
the safety of other human rights defenders in the city.
Amnesty International is particularly concerned for members of the Corporación
Regional de Derechos Humanos (CREDHOS), Regional Human Rights Corporation and
Asociación de Familiares Detenidos y Desaparecidos (ASFADDES), Association
of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared. Both organizations have
recently been threatened, harassed and intimidated, including computer records
being stolen from the CREDHOS offices and a failed attempt on the life of its
director in March (see UA 277/99, 21 October 1999 AMR 23/74/99).
William Bedoya, who works with political prisoners and has reportedly been
threatened with death before, apparently by paramilitary groups operating in
the area, was shot by two gunmen as he was leaving his house in Barrancabermeja.
He is now in intensive care in hospital.
Human rights lawyers who represent political prisoners have often been labelled
as subversives by the security forces and their paramilitary allies and been
the target of serious human rights violations.
The policy by the security forces and their paramilitary allies of labelling
human rights organizations, particularly those seeking to uphold the legal
rights of people accused of “subversion”, as guerrilla collaborators or
supporters means they are able to present them as legitimate targets in the
counter-insurgency war. This has resulted in an increasing number of serious
human rights violations by the security forces and their paramilitary allies
against human rights defenders - over 20 have been killed or “disappeared”
in the last two years. Some armed opposition groups also refuse to respect
the legitimacy and independence of organisations which belong to civil society.
On 9 September 1999, Colombia’s Human Rights Day, President Andrés Pastrana
issued Presidential Directive No 07 concerning ‘support, communication and
cooperation of the Colombian State with human rights organizations’. The
Directive orders all public officials to abstain from questioning the legitimacy
of human rights organizations and from making false accusations which could
compromise their security or reputation.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing alarm at the shooting of human rights lawyer William Bedoya in
Barrancabermeja on 14 December 1999;
- expressing concern for the safety of other human rights defenders in the