Photo credit: Milena Quiroz

Latin America & Caribbean

ISHR calls on Colombian Court to guarantee the right to a fair trial

ISHR, along with multiple other NGOs, released a joint statement condemning the criminalisation of women human rights defender Milena Quiroz and calling for her right to a fair trial and her right to defend human rights to be guaranteed.

ISHR, Front Line Defenders, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights released a joint statement following over 2,000 days of criminalisation and persecution of women human rights defender Milena Quiroz by State authorities, calling for Quiroz’s rights to be guaranteed.

Quiroz is an Afro-Colombian women human rights defender and social leader, part of several communitarian organisations that seek to promote the rights of inhabitants of the “Sur de Bolívar” region in Colombia. Quiroz was arbitrarily detained by the government on 21 March 2017 along with other human rights defenders, charged with the crimes of ‘rebellion’, ‘conspiracy to commit a crime’ and ‘financing terrorist groups’, due to demonstrations she organised as a social leader

Quiroz, along with 11 others, has suffered reprisals at the hands of the Colombian government for her crucial work of protest and defence of human rights: arbitrary detentions, a long process of criminalisation fraught with irregularities, unjustified delays, lack of evidence, and non-compliance with due process guarantees. This has caused the process to extend for over 5 years and 3 consecutive governments in Colombia, with Quiroz placed under house arrest away from her community when provisionally released from prison, because she was considered by authorities ‘a danger to society’. 

In the upcoming hearing, the judge will decide whether to reject evidence the prosecutors intend to use against Quiroz – evidence that Quiroz’ lawyers have been prevented from accessing, as well as witnesses they have been prevented from interviewing. We have been waiting for more than two years for this decision, and a failure to reject this evidence would constitute a continued violation of Quiroz’s right to a fair trial. 

ISHR and partners released a statement to draw attention to this hearing. ‘We’re calling on the Colombian authorities to immediately stop the process of criminalisation of Quiroz, and, critically, to respect Quiroz’s rights to a fair trial and to defend human rights’, said ISHR’s Javier Urizar. 

Read the full statement here.

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