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Demand End to Harassment of Colombian Human Rights Lawyer

 

Jorge Molano, a prominent Colombian human rights lawyer, was harassed and intimidated by unidentified men on three occasions in the last week of November. Each time a group of men arrived at Molano's apartment inquiring about his whereabouts but immediately disappeared once Molano was alerted to their presence. Molano's partner has also been subject to suspicious surveillance, a common tactic used in Colombia to intimate and silence human rights activists.

Jorge Molano is a crucial human rights lawyer handling some of Colombia's most sensitive justice cases which involve high ranking Colombian military officials and several massacres which are reaching trial. It was recently revealed that the Colombian national intelligence agency (DAS) illegally wiretapped his communications in its quest to spy on human rights defenders, Supreme Court judges, and opposition officials.

We are concerned that the harassment and surveillance may be intended to deter Molano's groundbreaking work in seeking justice for various human rights violations through the courts, in particular the upcoming trial on December 14 - 16 for the San Jose de Apartado massacre. Molano represents the relatives of victims of this massacre.

TAKE ACTION NOW to urge Colombian officials to increase Jorge Molano's security measures to prevent any attacks against him and to investigate the recent harassment.

Alert Date: 12/3/2009


Rafael Bustamante Perez
Director of Human Rights
Ministry of Interior and Justice
Carrera 8 No. 13-31 Piso 4
Bogota, Colombia

Dear Mr. Bustamante,

I am writing to express my great concern over the surveillance and recent security threats faced by Jorge Eliécer Molano Rodriguez, a prominent Colombian human rights lawyer. I urge you to investigate these recent security risks, improve his protective measures and adopt the other suggestions below.

On three occasions in the last week of November, 2009, Jorge Molano was the reported victim of several security threats at his home. Men dressed in plain clothes arrived at his residence to inquire whether he was home. When the apartment building's security guard attempted to contact Molano's apartment to verify his presence, the men immediately dispersed, claiming that they would call Molano later. Molano's partner has also been subject to suspicious surveillance.

Jorge Molano is a lawyer for human rights organizations such as Sembrar, NOMADESC, and the Agricultural and Mining Union of South Bolivar (Fedeagromisbol). He also provides legal representation to victims of human rights violations, such as the families of those killed in the massacre of San José de Apartado on February 21, 2005; human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained and subjected to trumped-up criminal charges; and those who have suffered illegal surveillance by the national intelligence agency (DAS). Molano provided invaluable assistance to Human Rights First in researching its February 2009 report, Under the Gun and In the Dock: Baseless Prosecutions of Colombian Human Rights Defenders.

Molano is a crucial human rights lawyer handling some of Colombia's most sensitive justice cases which involve high ranking Colombian military officials and several massacres that are reaching court. I am concerned that the harassment and surveillance may be intended to deter Molano's groundbreaking work in seeking justice for various human rights violations. In particular, I am aware of the upcoming trial for the San José de Apartado massacre on December 14 - 16 and recent developments in the investigations into Operation Dragon and the Justice Palace case. Molano represents victims in all of these cases.

Due to his high security risk profile I understand that Jorge Molano has received strong protective measures from the Interior and Justice Ministry. However, I am concerned that these security measures are insufficient given the recent surveillance. I urge you to strengthen Molano's protection scheme by improving security at his office and installing bulletproof windows there, fortifying the bulletproofing of his vehicle, and increasing the number of bodyguards he is assigned.

I also urge you to ensure that the DAS, or any other state agency, is not continuing its illegal surveillance of Molano. He has recently noted strange background noises during telephone calls and dropped calls. It was recently revealed that in 2004 Molano's phone was illegally wiretapped by the DAS in an effort to spy on the work of human rights defenders.

Finally, I urge you to guarantee a full investigation of all the suspicious behavior and surveillance that Molano has recently reported. Moreover, I urge you to publicly call for an end to the stigmatization of Mr. Molano in the media. His security has been further imperiled by comments published in various media outlets threatening him and accusing him of being a terrorist.

On November 20, 2009, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution, [1] which Colombia agreed to, emphasizing and calling upon states to adopt strong and effective measures for the protection of human rights defenders to prevent and eliminate human rights violations against defenders. I call upon you to put into practice the international standards that Colombia has agreed to by adopting the measures above to prevent attacks against Molano and his family. His human rights advocacy is vital to strengthen Colombian democracy and the rule of law and it is crucial that the Colombian state enable him to carry out his work unimpeded.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I will continue to closely monitor this situation.

Sincerely,

[1] Third Committee, Agenda item 69 (b), Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, November 20, 2009, UN Doc. A/C.3/64/L.38/Rev.1
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