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Colombia: fear for safety / extrajudicial execution: Javier Alberto Barriga Vergel, human rights lawyer

, N° d'index: AMR 23/028/1995

There are renewed fears for the safety of human rights defenders in Cucuta city, Norte de Santander, after the killing of lawyer Javier Alberto Barriga Vergel on 16 June 1995. The dead man was a member of the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective (CCA), working for the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP), in Cucuta. The CSPP is working on numbers cases of where members of the security forces are implicated in abuses. Its lawyers have reportedly received repeated death threats and have been harassed and attacked.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 23/28/95
Distr: UA/SC
UA 144/95 Fear for safety / Extrajudicial execution 20 June 1995
COLOMBIA Javier Alberto BARRIGA VERGEL, human rights lawyer
There are renewed fears for the safety of human rights defenders in Cúcuta
city, Norte de Santander Department, after the killing of lawyer Javier Alberto
Barriga Vergel.
At 8.30am on 16 June 1995 Javier Alberto Barriga left his house by car in the
Los Barrios area of Cúcuta. He was shot dead with two bullets to the head
by two unidentified armed men.
Javier Alberto Barriga was a member of the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados
José Alvear Restrepo (CCA), José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective, working
for the Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos (CSPP), Committee of
Solidarity with Political Prisoners, in Cúcuta. The CSPP is working on numerous
important cases of human rights violations in which members of the police and
army are implicated, and its lawyers have repeatedly been subjected to death
threats, harassment and physical attack because of their work. The killing
of Javier Alberto Barriga has heightened fears that others involved with the
CCA and the CSPP may be similarly targeted.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Human rights lawyers and members of human rights organizations are increasingly
at risk in Colombia, despite presidential promises to ensure their safety.
On 9 September 1994, President Ernesto Samper Pizano declared in a speech that
his government "would seek to have constructive relations with human rights
organizations with the aim of suppressing human rights violations and would
do everything necessary to protect the lives and the integrity of their members"
("Buscará sostener con los organismos de derechos humanos relaciones
constructivas en procura de suprimir las violaciones de tales derechos y pondrá
de su parte cuanto sea necesario para proteger la vida y la integridad de sus
miembros").
Indeed, President Samper has repeatedly pledged his government's commitment
to protect human rights and tackle impunity. However, members of the Colombian
armed and security forces, together with their paramilitary allies, continue
to commit serious violations with virtual impunity. Trade unionists, popular
leaders, civic activists and human rights workers are amongst those frequently
targeted. Only in exceptional circumstances 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/airmail
letters either in Spanish or in your own language:
- expressing concern at the killing of human rights lawyer Javier Alberto Barriga
Vergel on 16 June 1995 in circumstances suggesting that he was extrajudicially
executed;
- calling for an immediate and thorough investigation into the killing, the
results of which should be made public and those responsible brought to justice;
- urging that, in line with President Samper's declared commitment to protect
the lives of human rights defenders, all possible measures be taken to protect
those working with the Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos in Norte
Santander region;
2
- urging the authorities to take immediate measures to dismantle paramilitary
groups in line with stated governmental commitments.
APPEALS TO
1) President of Colombia:
Señor Ernesto Samper Pizano
Presidente de la República
Palacio de Nariño
Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: President Samper, Bogotá, Colombia
Telexes: 44281 PALP CO
Faxes: + 57 1 286 7434
Salutation:Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President Samper
2) Procurator General:
Dr. Orlando Vásquez Velásquez
Procurador General de la Nación
Procuraduría General
Edificio Banco Ganadero
Carrera 5, No. 15-80
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams: Procurador General Velásquez, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 342 9723 (may be taped office sounds, then engaged signal, then
fax tone) / 284 0472 / 281 7531
Salutation:Sr. Procurador de la Nación/Dear Dr. Velásquez
3) Attorney General
Dr. Alfonso Valdivieso Sarmiento
Fiscal General de la Nación
Fiscalia General de la Nación
Apartado Aéreo 29855
Santafé de Bogotá, Colombia
Telegrams:Fiscal General Valdivieso, Fiscalia General, Bogotá, Colombia
Faxes:+ 57 1 211 6676 or 288 2828 (may be taped voice, then short delay before
fax tone)
Salutation: Estimado Valdivieso/Dear Dr. Valdivieso
4) Minister of the Interior
Dr. Horacio Serpa Uribe
Ministro de Gobierno
Ministerio de Gobierno
Carrera 8a, No.8-09, Piso 7
0
Santafé de Bogotá, COLOMBIA
Telegrams: Ministro de Gobierno, Bogota, Colombia
Telexes:45406 MINGO CO
Faxes:57 1 286 8025 / 286 0053 / 286 0485
Salutation:Sr. Ministro/Dear Minister
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
Lawyers' Association:
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados
AA 44456
Santa Fé de Bogotá
Colombia
3
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 7 August 1995.

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