PBI UK invites accompanied human rights defenders to the UK, facilitating meetings with politicians, diplomats, academics, lawyers and activists. This amplifies their voices internationally, both contributing to their protection and providing wider platforms for them to discuss in their own words their vital struggles in support of justice and human rights.
PBI UK amplified the voices of five defenders in 2019 through speaking tours. They provided opportunities for defenders to raise concerns directly with policy-makers in the UK, expand their networks and identify funding possibilities. The tours also provided an incredibly valuable opportunity for respite, and time to build resilience.
One was the Colombian human rights defender Danilo Rueda, National Coordinator of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz – CIJP (Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace), who works with Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities on the Colombian Pacific Coast. In 2018-19, Danilo received several death threats due to his work on the displacement of these communities, and so he was invited to the UK in order to raise awareness of his security situation amongst stakeholders, advocate at political and legal fora on behalf of the communities he works for, and access strategic litigation advice for the communities Danilo work for regarding the Amerisur case, outlined below.
We achieved these objectives through a high-impact strategic visit, combining meetings, parliamentary questions, and a Westminster Hall debate. Meetings with high profile members of the legal and political communities, including the Head of South America for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a roundtable in Parliament, chaired by Chris Bryant MP, discussing the ongoing conflict in rural Colombia and the implementation of the Peace Accord.
Danilo met with the UK legal community including lawyers from Leigh Day and Matrix chambers to explore how lawyers in the UK could help to gain access to remedy for communities in Putumayo, whom CIJP accompany and whose livelihoods have been affected by a UK oil company, Amerisur.
In 2019, we made significant headway in the Amerisur Putumayo case, which had previously involved accompanying the CIJP on issues of business and human rights in support of community resistance as articulated through the Amazon Peasant Reserve Zone. PBI scheduled meetings for Danilo with Leigh Day and Richard Hermer QC, and ensured frequent communication between the parties, attended court hearings and monitored the security of communities on the ground, in order to build a partnership that led to the freezing of Amerisur’s accounts, a trial in the UK, and the possibility of reparations for the communities affected.