British MPs write to President Duque over attacks on peace process lawyers

The Parliamentary Friends of Colombia, a cross-party group of MPs in the British parliament, has written to the Colombian government over recent acts of aggression and intimidation against lawyers working in the Lazos de Dignidad (FLD) organisations. FLD provides legal representation to FARC members going before truth and justice tribunals to testify over the armed conflict.

The full letter is published below.

President Iván Duque
Casa de Nariño
Carrera 8 #7-26

27 August 2019

Dear Mr President,

As chair of the UK Parliamentary Friends of Colombia (PFC), I am writing to express our strong concern at recent aggressions aimed at members of the Lazos de Dignidad (FLD) lawyers collective, including the attack on FLD
president Gustavo Gallardo’s car in Bogota on 7 August 2019. PFC is a group of more than 60 MPs in the British Parliament who are committed to supporting peace and human rights in Colombia.

In August 2018, while on a parliamentary and trade union delegation of the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor, I met with Mr Gallardo in his capacity as defence lawyer for FARC negotiator Jesús Santrich. We were in Colombia to observe implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and the broader human rights situation.

FLD performs a critical role in the Colombian peace process by providing legal representation to FARC former guerrillas who are testifying at truth and justice tribunals. These tribunals aim to establish the truth about what
happened during the armed conflict and help build national reconciliation and ensure that the violence of the past is never repeated.

The 7 August attack is the latest in a campaign of intimidation, threats and harassment against Mr Gallardo and another FLD lawyer, Nadia Triviño. Other recent incidents include important legal documents being stolen from Ms Triviño’s car on 30 July, and her being pursued by another vehicle the following day.

Any attempt to impede or prevent FLD from representing defendants undermines the peace process and violates democratic and constitutional norms. All actors in Colombian truth and justice tribunals, as in any other court, are entitled to a legal defence and the protection of their human rights, as stipulated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1998.

Considering the chronic human rights insecurity affecting many regions of Colombia, it is imperative that urgent security measures are implemented for all human rights defenders, social leaders and former combatants in the peace process. We are extremely alarmed at the hundreds of murders of social leaders and more than one hundred FARC members committed since the peace agreement was signed.

Given your stated commitment to the peace process, we urge your government to guarantee security for FLD lawyers so that they can exercise their legal and democratic duty to JEP defendants. We also ask that the Attorney General’s office endeavour to identify the culprits behind these attacks and hold them to account.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Stevens MP
Chair, Parliamentary Friends of Colombia