Call for judicial independence in Colombia by 3 networks and 212 organisations

We Demand respect for judicial independence in Colombia

Today, Colombian democracy is facing one of itsmost difficult moments. The President of the Republicand the Government party are carrying out an aggressivecampaign against rights, the balance of powers, the Courts, and judicial independence;dangerously advancing towards authoritarianism and an end to the essential pillars of rule of law.

This authoritarian assault is especially focusedon the Courts and judicial independence, seeking to decimate any possibility of establishing democratic limits to the executive branch’sand state institutions’ arbitrary actions, as well as ignoring rulings handed down by different judicial bodies to guarantee citizen rights andwith the aim of materializing fundamental tenents. It is crucial that we aren’t misledby rhetoric: the attacks against the justice system are not against a specific judge or court, this is an attack against all citizens and especially against the guarantees that any individual, but especially government employees,not use state money, means,or weapons to infringe uponour rights and honor.

There have been several attacks against and recurrent contempt for judicial decisions, including the response to the Administrative Court of Nariño’s rulingordering the government to suspend a virtual public hearing as the alleged fulfillment of prior consultation with communities from 104 counties on aerial fumigations with glyphosate. Despitethe ruling, the Minister of Defense did not take pause in announcing thatuse ofthis dangerous agro-toxicwould be reinitiated.

Also, in responseto the provisional arrest warrant ordered by the Special Arraignment Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justiceagainst ex-president and ex-senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the President of the Republic and several high-level government employees strongly questioned and criticized the decision. The ruling must be accepted or questionedby means of the mechanismsestablishedwithin the judicial system.

Similarly, recent abuses perpetrated by State Security Forces have also opened a debate regarding the Military Criminal Jurisdiction, which, contrary to international treaties has assumed the jurisdiction to investigate and try grave human rights violations committed by state agents, including the murder of Dilan Cruz and the Tandil massacre that occurred in 2017 in the department of Nariño.

The Executive’s most recent attack against judicial independence was in refusing to obey the tutela(writ of protection of constitutional rights) ruling from 22 September, when the Civil Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered, among other immediate measures, that the government publicly ask for forgiveness for serious human rights violations committed by public servants during last year’snational strike, when the State Security Forces intervened in a violent and arbitrary mannerandusing potentially lethal weapons, one of which caused the death of Dilan Cruzin the city of Bogotá. They also used irritating chemical agents to arbitrarily breakup protests, in addition to illegallyholding individuals and attacking the press.

In addition to asking for forgiveness, the Civil Chamber ordered the Government to maintain a neutral position in relation to nonviolent protests, creating distinct protocols to guarantee this right, to activate a working group with stakeholders from the social protests,and suspendtheuse of 12-gauge shotguns used to intervene during the protests.

Contrary to this decision, the Government—again through the Minister of Defense—announced a request to have the Constitutional Court’s ruling reviewed and failed to fulfill the terms of how theyshould ask for forgiveness, appealing to a statement made on 11 September -before the Court’s decision was knownand which said,“this spontaneous expression of apology refers to any violation of the law, at any time, whichhas involved any member of theinstitution.” This was unacceptable for thevictims and organizations who filed the tutelaas it did not reference the incidents or recognize the systematic nature of police abuses andthe need for structural reforms, as was indicated in the ruling.

The open contempt from President Duque and the Minister of Defense regarding this ruling—shortlyafter thousands of videos showed the Police shooting at and attacking citizens on 9 and 10 September of 2020, when thirteen people were also murdered—is not only an attack on a crucial element of modern democracies, for example judicialsovereignty, but also against the necessary subjection of military power to civil power. Hence, the message sent by the executive to members of the State Security Forces who violate human rights could not be more terrifying: shoot, attack, and use violence, the national Government supports you. Also, by ignoring the rulingthe national government is denying Colombians the right to transition towardspeace, towards overcoming the idea that social protests are more a public disturbance instead of being seen as a manifestation of a democratic right that, although it may be disruptive, shows the strength of public deliberation and democracy in a country.

We call on the Minister of Defense and Iván Duque Government to not use the judiciary or its rulings as an electoral battle horse, that it cease all attacks against the administration of justice,and that it comprehensively comply with judicial rulings, including the Supreme Court of Justice ruling in relation to the right to peaceful protest. Let us remember that in a democracy nobody is above justice, particularly not the President of the Republic.

Signed,

Plataformas de Derechos Humanos

1.Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos

2.Alianza de Organizaciones Sociales y Afines

3.Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo

Organizaciones

1.Colectivo Sociojurídico Orlando Fals Borda

2.Comisión Colombiana de Juristas

3.Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento -CODHES-

4.Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo

5.Viva la Ciudadanía6.#Accionemos

7.ABColombia

8.Action et Solidarite pour la Colombie et Ailleurs à Montréal

9.Ama Colombia Sintralitigantes

10.Aprodic, Cartagena

11.Asamblea Provincial Constituyente Del Oriente Antioqueño

12.ASEDEUIS

13.ASITM

14.Asmetrosalud

15.Asociación Colombiana Mutualista para la Vida -ACMUV

16.Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas de San Vicente del Caguán ACISC

17.Asociación de campesinos y comunidades sin tierra del Cesar

18.Asociación de Empleados Públicos de la Universidad Industrial de Santander ASDEUIS

19.Asociacion De Mujeres Negras Ubuntu

20.Asociación De Mujeres Por La Defensa Y Los Derechos De La Mujer Colombiana

21.Asociación De Mujeres Víctimas Del Conflicto Armado Interno Generadoras De Paz.

22.Asociación de Trabajo Interdisciplinario -ATI

23.Asociación Guachinacal24.Asociación Minga

25.Asociación por la unidad campesina del Catatumbo-Asuncat

26.Asomudem

27.Asonal Judicial S.I.

28.Asonal Judicial S.I. Antioquia

29.Asonal Judicial S.I. Bucaramanga

30.Asonal Judicial S.I. Caldas

31.Asonal Judicial S.I. Quindio

32.Asonamc

33.ASOVIB

34.ASPU-UD

35.ATCH

36.Brigada de Salud Estudiantil -BSE-

37.Casa de la Mujer UPTC

38.CEICOS -Recursos Compartidos

39.Centro Cívico San Javier

40.Centro de Promoción y Cultura

41.CGT

42.Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America -CRLN

43.Ciudadanias libres

44.Coiso

45.Colectivo Benkos Biohó

46.Colectivo EncantaPalabras

47.Colegio de jueces de paz de Barranquilla

48.Colombia Humana

49.Colombia Humana UP Buenaventura

50.Colombian Human Rights Committee

51.Comité De La V Victoria y Federación Nacional

52.Comité Local de Derechos Humanos de Suba -CLODHS

53.Comité permanente por la defensa de los derechos humanos

54.Comité pour le respect des droits humains Daniel Gillard…..

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