Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2010

Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia: In the Dock and Under the Gun

February 2009

Human Rights First


In a criminal justice system plagued by impunity, the tenacity with which Colombian prosecutors pursue human rights defenders for supposed crimes is striking. While corruption and arbitrary actions are a systemic problem throughout the judicial system, those who peacefully promote human rights are singled out for particular intimidation through baseless investigations and prosecutions. Unfounded charges are often widely publicized, undermining the credibility of defenders and marking them as targets for physical attack, usually by paramilitary groups. The spurious charges usually allege that the defenders are terrorists. The report identifies patterns and trends and provides recommendations to the Colombian authorities and United States government in order to address this serious problem. It also contains a table summarizing original research from over 32 cases of unfounded prosecutions against defenders.