BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — A group of lawyers supported in a public hearing on Thursday —before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights— its lawsuit against the Colombian State for alleged illegal surveillance, intimidation and violence sustained for three decades in connection with its defense activities from the human rights.
The Inter-American Court convened a public hearing on the preliminary objections that will last Thursday and Friday to receive the arguments, hear the possible affected parties and the experts.
Lawyer Alirio Uribe, alleged victim, told the judges that due to his leadership work since the 1990s in the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CAJAR) he was subjected to “psychological torture”, followed up on him and his family, multiple threats and illegal surveillance by state intelligence agencies.
“I had to train my children to escape through the bathroom and the ceiling. There were many acts of terror, of permanent psychological torture,” explained Uribe, who has worked on cases of national impact involving state agents such as the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón and “false positives,” as extrajudicial executions at the hands of of members of the army against civilians to pass them off as guerrillas defeated in combat.
Soraya Gutiérrez Arguello, another of the alleged victims, told the judges that they were declared a military target by paramilitary groups that falsely accused them of being guerrillas. Her family, the lawyer said, has been seriously affected by her work and said that even one of her brothers was killed in “strange circumstances” in 2004.
“Reparations go beyond the material. We want to have favorable environments to carry out the work of human rights defenders with peace of mind, ”said Gutiérrez, who assures that she is still a victim of illegal interceptions.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded in its 2019 merits report that the Colombian State is responsible for the violation of several collective rights, including life, judicial guarantees, and the protection of honor and dignity.
The IACHR then identified that the state Administrative Department of Security (DAS) created a special intelligence group “for the purpose of monitoring the work activities of CAJAR members” to intercept their phones and emails. “In some cases, these cases led to their exile or that of their relatives to another country,” the IACHR representative, Edgar Stuardo Ralón, assured at the hearing.
The State argued before the IACHR that it “lacks all responsibility” in the case and that the measures adopted to protect the lives of CAJAR members have been effective with the implementation of security measures. In addition, he argued that the investigations into the lawyers’ complaints have been carried out in a “serious” manner and five criminal sentences have been issued against 11 former DAS officials, an organization dissolved a decade ago.