Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia | ISHR calls on the Colombian Constitutional Court to recognise the right to defend rights

In two third party interventions, in relation to a case filed by a group of Colombian human rights defenders alleging violations of their constitutional rights, ISHR sought to strengthen legal protections for human rights defenders across the country.

ISHR joined Front Line Defenders, the Center for Information on Business and Human Rights, CIVICUS, and RFK Human Rights in filing a joint third party intervention on Colombia’s international legal obligation to protect the rights of human rights defenders that will be submitted to Colombia’s Constitutional Court, the highest constitutional authority of the country. 

This intervention was submitted in relation to a case filed by a coalition of Colombian human rights organisations. The case concerns ten human rights defenders, social leaders and peacebuilders working across a broad range of issues. Each of these human rights defenders claims that their constitutional rights have been violated by systemic violence committed against them in their work.

The joint intervention aims to assist Colombia’s Constitutional Court expand their understanding on the international dimension of the right to defend rights. In particular, it clarifies how the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders informs Colombia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights. 

This intervention builds on an earlier amicus that ISHR filed to the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá along with Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social in relation to the same case. 

Lower courts, including a  Civil Circuit Court and the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá have already affirmed the right to defend rights. The Constitutional Court has the power to broaden the scope of these prior decisions and  strengthen legal protections for social leaders and human rights defenders, including monitoring for effective State compliance.

According to ISHR’s Co-Director and Legal Counsel Tess McEvoy, ‘the recognition by the Constitutional Court of the right to defend rights could represent a turning point for the legal recognition of rights of defenders in Colombia. For years, Colombia has supported developments at the international level on the protection of human rights defenders, whilst failing to protect defenders working in dangerous conditions in the country. This decision could contribute to articulating clearer obligations to protect defenders at home.’ 

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