the Bar of Lyon denounces the situation of its Colombian colleagues

Every year, on January 24, the lawyers of the Bars of France mobilize to denounce the situation of their colleagues in Colombia. This Monday noon, the lawyers of Lyon were called to meet at noon, in dress, in front of the judicial court, in the 3rd arrondissement, in support of the lawyers threatened, in Colombia but also everywhere in the world.

This Monday, January 24, 2022 is the 12th International Day of Lawyers in Danger. Since 2009, this day has been intended to draw the attention of civil society and public authorities to the situation of lawyers in a particular country. This year, the mobilization is dedicated to the situation in Colombia where lawyers are persecuted and prevented from exercising freely. This day is relayed in France, on the initiative of the Conseil National des Barreaux, to the 164 Bars in France. That of Lyon, which is the 2nd in France, has 3,700 lawyers.

Lawyers from the Lyon Bar have mobilized to support their persecuted Colombian counterparts. Wearing the portraits of four of their Colombian colleagues, they were gathered at midday in front of the new courthouse, in the 3rd arrondissement of Lyon. A symbolic gathering in a lawyer’s robe.

“Colombia is marked by deep crises,” recalls on its website the International Observatory of Lawyers in Danger (OIAD). The observatory evokes five decades of internal armed conflicts “involving the state, paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug traffickers”. An unresolved armed conflict. Heavily divided and marked by inequality, Colombia is also facing a serious social crisis. “This situation leads to numerous human rights violations,” always according to the Observatory.

“Each year, the focus is on a country where the difficulties are significant,” summarizes Me Jean-François Barre, vice-president of the Bar of Lyon. “In Colombia, lawyers are in danger, especially those dedicated to the defense of human rights,” he adds. “These lawyers face pressure and reprisals, especially those working on land restitution cases or corruption cases,” specifies the vice-president.

Also according to the Observatory, defense lawyers and their families are victims of ssurveillance, theft of professional equipment, discrediting and defamation… pressures that can go as far as death threats. Some are forced into exile.

The 334,508 practicing Colombian lawyers do not have legal protection or police protection. They don’t do not even have an official institution of a professional nature aimed at supporting, guaranteeing and protecting the free exercise of the profession of lawyer.

These lawyers are threatened for having participated in the prosecution of military officers, for having defended Afro-Colombian communities or for having participated in the fight against the impunity of former President Uribe. Among the lawyers in great danger, the Observatory cites Reinaldo Villalba Vergas, Adil Jose Melendez Marquez, Zoraida Henandez Pedraza and German Romero Sanchez.

Adil Marquez was the victim of three assassination attempts, wiretapped and threatened with death,” insists Me Jean-François Rod. “Last year, five Colombian lawyers were killed,” specifies the vice-president, taking up the figure of the OIAD.

The Bar of Lyon is attentive to what is happening in other countries. It has even engaged in twinning activities with foreign Bars. “The Human Rights Commission at the Bar of Lyon is also very active,” says Me Barre.

Since 2009, Endangered Lawyer Day has been held every January 24, in several cities, countries and continents around the world. This date was chosen as the annual International Day of the Lawyer in Danger in reference to the Atocha massacre in Spain. Thus, on January 24, 1977, lawyers were murdered at their address on Calle Atocha, in Madrid. It is one of the worst tragedies of the transition to democracy in Spain.

That evening, Carlos García Juliá, 24, an activist of the far-right Francoist Fuerza Nueva party, had appeared with two accomplices in the offices of the law firm, specializing in social conflicts and the defense of workers. After lining up the people present facing a wall, the commando coldly fired, killing three lawyers as well as a student on internship and an administrative employee. Four seriously injured people survived. The authors of this massacre, believing themselves protected by their political support, had not taken the trouble to leave Madrid.

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