April 4, 2019
International delegation heads to Colombia to observe the trial of Santiago Uribe Velez in the “12 Apostles” case
An international delegation of lawyers comprising the Colombia Caravana (UK), the Bar Human Rights Committee (England & Wales) and supported by the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk is in Colombia this week to observe final hearings in the case of ‘Los Doce Apostoles’. The main defendant is Santiago Uribe Velez, brother of former President and current Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez, who stands accused of co-founding the paramilitary group ‘Los Doce Apostoles’ and for the murder of bus driver Camilo Barrientos Duran, allegedly murdered by the group in 1994 in Antioquia.
The victims are represented by Daniel Prado Albarracin, a Colombian human rights lawyer who has represented families of enforced disappearance since the early 1990s. Despite the adoption of the Colombian peace accord in November 2016,’in Colombia, being a human rights defender is a high-risk occupation’: since 2016 there has been an increase in the killings of human rights defenders, to an estimated rate of one in every three days. These risks are particularly prevalent in the case of lawyers like Prado who seek justice for victims of the armed conflict and fight to pierce the culture of impunity which has surrounded systematic human rights violations for decades.
Colombia is bound by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the ICCPR and the ACHR, all of which impose obligations on the State to protect defenders from violations of their rights to physical integrity and private life in the exercise of their professional functions.