National Union reaffirms solidarity links with Colombian lawyers collective

Alirio Uribe Muñoz, President of Colombia's Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR), was accompanied by Pascal Paradis from Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC) to a meeting with NUPGE's National Executive Board.

Ottawa (14 Dec. 2012) – This week the leadership of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) reaffirmed their solidarity with the struggle for peace and democracy in Colombia during a meeting with one of the countries most prominent human rights leaders.

Alirio Uribe Muñoz, President of Colombia's Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR), was accompanied by Pascal Paradis from Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC) to a meeting with NUPGE's National Executive Board. (More on CCAJAR and Uribe below)

Front row: Larry Brown (National Secretary-Treasurer of NUPGE), Pascal Paradis (LWBC), Alirio Uribe (CCAJAR) and James Clancy (National President of NUPGE)  Back rows: National Executive Board, NUPGE

Uribe explained that despite harassment and threats directed at CCAJAR the organization has achieved some major legal victories.

In one of the most notable, CCAJAR lawyers represented more than 20 victims of political persecution by the Department of Administrative Security (DAS, until 2011 the principal state intelligence agency in Colombia). CCAJAR proved spying and illegal wire-tapping (known as “chuzadas” in Colombia) took place and led the procecution of 50 DAS functionaries resulting in 20 now in prison including an ex-Director, Jorge Noguera.

While involved in a number of high profile cases the Collective also provides legal representation to approximately 130 family members of alleged extrajudicial killings. In one of the best known cases, the “mothers of Soacha” (Cundinamarca) where members of the Colombian National Army falsely presented 17 young men as guerrillas killed in combat in 2008. Eight members of the military were sentenced between 28 and 55 years in prison in 2011 for their responsibility in the deaths of two of these young men.

Uribe also discussed the ongoing peace process in Colombia. He explained that negotiations between the government of Colombia and leftist rebels have resumed in Havana, Cuba. Colombians are cautiously optimistic that they will see an end to the fighting. The peace process was announced by President Juan Manuel Santos in September.

However, Uribe reported that there are signs of an increased crackdown on civil society groups and possibly even an intensification of government initiated attacks on the FARC guerrillas. This despite the guerrillas declaring a two-month unilateral cease-fire through Jan. 20, 2013. Government troops have killed at least 20 people in a series of raids on rebel camps in the southwest.

One positive development, according to Uribe, is that citizen organizations in Colombia have prepared their own proposals for peace.

“In those negotiations peace will not be achieved. What they can do is put an end to the armed conflict,” said Uribe.

“Any agreements signed in Havana will serve to highlight the real conflict in this country which has to do with inequality and has to be resolved though democratic means,” says Mr. Uribe.

The National Executive Board of NUPGE was very impressed by Mr. Uribe's presentation. During the meeting they reaffirmed their commitment to solidarity efforts with Colombia and discussed ways to further the relationship.

CCAJAR - Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective

It is a non-profit human rights organization made up of lawyers, professionals and students that aims to contribute to the defense, protection and fulfillment of civil and political rights, to fight against impunity and in favour of true reparation of crimes against humanity, and to build a democratic society, based on social justice, equity, and political, cultural and economic inclusion. CCAJAR has a specific program directed to labour rights. The Collective is playing a lead role in writing the Colombian civil society brief to address the human rights assessment section of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

CCAJAR is coming up on it's 35th year of working to defend and promote human rights by supporting victims in the fight against impunity.

Alirio Uribe Muñoz

He is an eminent lawyer with more than 20 years of experience litigating on behalf of victims of gross human rights violations both before domestic and regional courts.

Mr. Uribe is the President of the José Alvear Restrepo Collective (CCAJAR), one of the leading and best-known non-governmental organizations defending and promoting human rights in Colombia, and was Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Coordinator of the Colombian Chapter of the Inter-American Platform on Human Rights, Democracy and Development. In his capacity as human rights lawyer, Mr Uribe has documented and submitted key information on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Colombia to the Office of the Prosecutor of International Criminal Court in the context of the preliminary examination conducted by the OTP-ICC on this country.

In 2003, he received the Martin Ennals Human Rights Award (France). He has published widely on human rights issues and has carried out research on forced displacement in Colombia and the enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE