In April 2018 Colombian human rights lawyer Luis Guillermo Pérez visited Europe in order to submit evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the killings on human rights defenders in Colombia. 2017, the first full year since the signing of the peace agreement in Colombia, was the deadliest on record for human rights defenders, with 121 killed, compared with 60 killings in 2016. The communication argues that the ICC should open an investigation because the Colombian government is failing to investigate the crimes properly and constitute a crime against humanity. In London Luis Guillermo was able to present the ICC communication to different sectors (including members of the Alliance for lawyers at Risk, FCO officials and parliamentarians) and to raise awareness of the situation for human rights defenders in Colombia.
"Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders. Violent repression of trade unionists, land rights and environmental activists, community leaders, lawyers, LGBTI activists, journalists and others who stand up for rights is widespread and systematic." - ICC Dossier from CAJAR and The ECCHR.
Luis Guillermo Pérez Casas is a lawyer with the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR), based in Bogotá. For over 30 years, the work of CAJAR’s lawyers has resulted in landmark decisions that have improved access to justice for many victims of the country’s long-running conflict. They have faced many serious threats for this work, including the assassination of their founder Eduardo Umaña Mendoza and being publically identified as “military targets” by death squads. PBI has accompanied the collective since 1995; monitoring the security situation of the lawyers and thanks to PBI's international networks, members of CCAJAR have been able to raise their security concerns in front of a wide range of stakeholders.
In London Luis Guillermo met with Members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as UK civil society groups and distinguished members of the legal community including Sir Peter Roth, Guy Beringer, Kirsty Brimelow and Monica Feria-Tinta. In the meetings Luis Guillermo shared his concerns about the security situation of human rights defenders and vulnerable communities in Colombia and asked the international community to support an effective implementation of the Peace Accords whatever the outcome of the upcoming elections.
The Law Society of England and Wales hosted a roundtable and a detailed account is available on their website. He was also interviewed for an article in the Guardian "2017 was deadliest year on record for Colombian human rights defenders" and the Time Legal Diary reported on his visit.
He also held a meeting with leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn, where he was presented with the ICC communication and Jeremy Corbyn expressed his support for the peace process in Colombia.
Whilst in London Luis Guillermo also launched the 6th Colombia Caravana of Jurists and gave a speech thanking the international community for its support of the peace process in Colombia and urging continued solidarity for lawyers and activists in the country. In homage to the assassinated founder of CAJAR Eduardo Umaña Mendoza he read a poem by Amparo Restrepo-Vélez.
“Más vale morir por algo. Que vivir por nada”
Dr. Eduardo Umaña Mendoza
Dr. Umaña ¡Como yo siempre te llamaba!
Fuiste hombre honesto, sensato
yo, no solo te quería, … te amaba
Te amo, como tantos otros líderes
que perseguidos por sus luchas, defendías
sin importarte el dinero
ni el modo, ni el tiempo.
sacrificabas las noches,
sacrificabas los días.
Para sindicalistas y luchadores
asumiste, una entrega total.
fuiste correcto, transparente
un hombre brillante, un hombre cabal.
Contra la corrupción y desaparición forzosa
demarcaste, el punto cardinal.
Y te mataron,
en un acto grotesco
de sevicia criminal
y es un crimen de Estado
y de lesa humanidad.
tus convicciones fueron semillas
en nuestros corazones sembradas,
en cada rincón de la patria,
por doquier, diseminadas.
por tus diligencias de compromiso
que hasta tu vida en peligro pusieron.
Te queremos y te amamos.
Por siempre tu memoria
en nuestros corazones, guardamos.