On Monday 24th November at The Law Society, London, two human rights lawyers from Nepal and Colombia will address UK lawyers on the difficulties of upholding Rule of Law and ensuring access to justice in countries where impunity is endemic.
Jitman Basnet (Nepal) and Judith Maldonado (Colombia) will give first-hand accounts of the dangers they face upholding the law and promoting human rights in their countries at an event jointly organised by PBI-UK and the Law Society, 'Persecution of Human Rights Defenders'. Members of the public will have the chance to hear their stories at a second event, held in conjunction with PBI-UK's AGM at 7.30pm on Wednesday 26th November at St Ethelburga's Centre, 78 Bishopsgate, London. To attend either event, please contact PBI (details below).
Judith Maldonado has fought tirelessly in defence of the indigenous and campesino communities of Catatumbo. A region rich in natural mineral resources, Catatumbo in north-eastern Colombia has seen its people ravaged by human rights abuses during the last 20 years. Judith has worked and at considerable risk to herself to protect the human and environmental rights of these indigenous and peasant communities and to seek justice for them. Judith works for one of the very few groups of human rights lawyers in Colombia, the law firm Luis Carlos Pérez' (CALCP). She will be accompanied in the UK by the Colombian indigenous leader Ashcayra Arabadora, and campesino leader Juan Carlos Quinterno.
Peace Brigades International volunteers accompany Judith Maldonado and her colleagues to enable them to continue their work with communities in remote areas, where armed groups are a threat to their security.
The Law Society is far removed from the anonymous prison cell where Jitman Basnet found himself in 2004. Lawyer, journalist and Secretary General of the Nepalese 'Lawyers’ Forum for Human Rights' (LAFUR), Basnet was arrested by the Nepalese army and arbitrarily detained for nine months after exposing human rights violations committed both by state security forces and the Maoist rebels. On his release, he published an account of his experiences in prison. Entitled 'Dark 258 Days', the book covers his own and other detainees’ stories of torture, rape, killings and disappearances at the hands of the Bhairabnath Barracks personnel. Death threats followed its publication, and Basnet was temporarily forced into exile in India in 2007.
Undaunted, he continues to campaign for justice in Nepal - his work there made possible by the accompaniment he receives on the ground from PBI volunteers. “I myself am an eyewitness,” he says. “My mission is to see justice done to all those who tried to hide human rights abuses.”
Jitman Basnet and Judith Maldonado will be available for interview between 24th and 28th November.