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Public Statement: Colombia (February 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the death threats against lawyer Daniel Ernesto Prado Albarracín
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the death threats against lawyer Daniel Ernesto Prado Albarracín.
 
Daniel Prado is a defence lawyer in Colombia with the NGO Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace (CIJP). Daniel Prado has long been the target of aggressions due to his work as a lawyer for victims of human rights violations. Such incidents include gunshots aimed at his office, attempted robberies at his office and an attempt to loosen the bolts of the tires of his car.
 
He has been representing victims of crimes committed by the “12 Apostles”, who are a paramilitary group that allegedly committed crimes against humanity. Reports suggest that this group is potentially responsible for the murders and disappearances of hundreds of people.
 
Santiago Uribe Vélez, brother of the former President of Colombia and who remains as a Senator, has been accused of co-founding the “12 Apostles” and is a “primary suspect in the case against the “12 Apostles”. As a result of the ongoing proceedings against Santiago Uribe Vélez, Daniel Prado has been subjected to serious intimidation, including harassment, death threats, defamatory public statements made against him by high ranking public officials and being followed by armed men after attending court hearings.
 
The Law Society is seriously concerned by credible reports of Daniel Prado’s situation and urges Colombia to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
 
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 17 states:
 
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
 
Furthermore, Article 23 states:
 
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
 
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 
Article 12 states:
 
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
 
The Law Society urges the Government of Colombia to:

  1. put an end to all acts of serious intimidation, including harassment, death threats, defamatory public statements by state officials and surveillance against Daniel Prado and all other lawyers in Colombia;

  2. ensure that all lawyers in Colombia are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, violence, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization or other human rights violations;

  3. ensure that all lawyers in Colombia can carry out their professional duties and activities without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human rights violations;

  4. ensure that all lawyers are free from arbitrary interference with his/her privacy, family, home or correspondence, and from attacks upon his/her honour and reputation; and

  5. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.