LWB Canada Troubled by Public Attacks against Its Partners in Colombia

A recent testimony of Ms. Mariela Contreras is at the root of the present affair. Ms.
Contreras declared before the Colombian justice system in 2002, and before the Inter-
American Court on Human Rights (IACHR), in 2005, that she had lost her husband and
two sons in the massacre perpetrated by paramilitaries in July 1997 in the village of
Mapiripán, with the complicity of regular military forces. On October 25th, 2011, she
testified at Court that she had in fact lied and fraudulently benefited from the monetary
compensation paid by the Colombian State as a result of the historical ruling in this case.

The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia (Fiscalía General de la Nación – FGN)
had recognised Ms. Contreras as a victim of the massacre in 2002. She was not
represented by CAJAR as party to these proceedings until the case was brought before
the IACHR, in 2003.

LWBC, like CAJAR, was troubled to learn that victims may have sought to induce
national and international judiciary systems into error, and hopes that these allegations
will be the object of a detailed investigation.

Nonetheless, LWBC stresses that attorneys who represent victims are not responsible
for establishing the facts at issue in a criminal trial. This falls under the responsibility of
competent State authorities. In the present case, the FGN declared in 2002 that Ms.
Contreras had lost relatives during the massacre, and recognised her as a victim of the
massacre. The truth of Ms. Contreras’ testimony of the events she claimed to have
witnessed was never challenged by the State since her statement before the FGN in

Many cabinet ministers and the Inspector General of Colombia (Procurador General de
la Nación – PGN) [[The functions of the Inspector General of Colombia, as defined at sections 277 and 278 of the
1991 Constitution, are to be responsible for ensuring respect of the Constitution and of the Law,
to promote fundamental rights, to protect the public good, and to guarantee the public service’s
ethical conduct. For more information : www.procuraduria.gov.co/]] have requested that punitive sanctions be imposed on CAJAR,
despite the fact that no penal or disciplinary authority has ever established that its
members have committed any offence or violated its professional ethical rules.

LWBC strongly objects to the fact that high-ranking officials of the Colombian
government have jumped so quickly to conclusions in this matter, and have insinuated
that CAJAR was driven by greed and was seeking, by all means possible, to convict the
State [[On October 27th, 2011, when invited to comment on the possibility that certain recognised
victims of the massacre in the Mapiripán ruling would in fact not actually be victims, President
Juan Manuel Santos declared: “Shady economic interests are trying to profit from this system [the
Inter-American System of Human Rights], and show no regard for it, because they seek to enrich
themselves by acquiring State resources. […] We would never have imagined that they would
recommend to some individuals to lie and to claim that they are victims, where in fact they are
not. This is one of the worst forms of corruption ever!” (Hay intereses oscuros y económicos que
utilizan ese sistema, y hacen burla de él, para lucrarse con los recursos del Estado. (…) Lo que
no nos imaginamos es que recomendaban que mintieran e hicieran pasar por víctimas a quienes
no lo eran. ¡Qué más acto de corrupción que este!) http://m.eltiempo.com/politica/crticas-a-falloen-
contra-del-estado-en-caso-de-mapiripn/10650084. As early as October 26th, 2011, the
Inspector General has qualified those representing the “false victims” as “criminal groups
specialised in defrauding the Colombian State” (bandas criminales que se han especializado en
estafar al Estado colombiano) http://m.elcolombiano.com/article/13877]].

This conduct seriously undermines CAJAR’s advocacy efforts for victims.
This behaviour also contradicts Executive Orders requiring State representatives to
recognise [[the importance and the legitimacy of the work of human rights advocates See Presidential Directive no 7, September 9th, 1999,
(http://www.presidencia.gov.co/prensa_new/direc/1999/dri07_99.pdf ) and Defence Ministry
Directive no 009, July 8th, 2003,

They are also in violation of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers [[UN Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 p. 118 (1990).
]] , which were
adopted by the United Nations in 1990 establishing that “Governments shall ensure that
lawyers a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation,
hindrance, harassment or improper interference; […] c) shall not suffer, or be threatened
with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in
accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”
By publicly condemning CAJAR from the outset, political representatives have impeded
the impartiality of Colombia’s judiciary, which is the only authority responsible for
establishing the facts of the present affair.

In a 2005 ruling, the IACHR explicitly acknowledged the possibility the Colombian
authorities’ investigation did not allow the number of victims to be identified with
certainty, many of whom have never been found and remain missing to this day. In this
same judgment, the Court ordered the Colombian State to take the necessary measures
to make the most accurate count of victims possible, in order to allow for individualised
measures of reparation. However, today public authorities are trying to blame the
continued uncertainty as to the number of victims on CAJAR attorneys, even though this
is clearly not their role nor their responsibility.

LWBC commends the IACHR for convoking the parties of the Mapiripán Massacre v.
Colombia case to a special hearing on November 23rd 2011, in San José, Costa Rica,
and sincerely hopes that this will be an opportunity to clearly establish the parties’
respective responsibility in this matter.

Inquiries: Mr Philippe Tremblay, Program Manager
[email protected]; +1 418-907-2607

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