We've joined with international bar associations and human rights groups to arrange International Fair Trial Day, which will be observed every year…
We’ve written to:
We wrote jointly with:
We’re concerned about the recent threats received by the lawyer Reinaldo Villalba Vargas and his legal team from the Colectivo Jose Alvear Restrepo in Colombia.
Mr Villalba has received multiple messages threats against his life via social media. For example, a message sent via Twitter stated: “we will see you in the street or in the mountains”, a clear reference to a potential attack on him. These threats appear to be related to his professional work as the legal representative of Colombian senator Ivan Cepeda Castro.
Mr Cepeda is a civil party and victim in the criminal case against the former president of Colombia, Mr Uribe, for alleged offences of bribing witnesses and fraud.
The current president of Colombia has made several public statements regarding the criminal case brought against Mr Uribe to the effect that he wishes Mr Uribe to be released. These public statements are contrary to the principle of judicial independence.
The president has stated that he made those statements in a personal capacity and that he, as any citizen, has a right to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, some statements were made via the Twitter account of the Presidency of Colombia.
In accordance with international human rights law, certain caveats apply regarding the exercise of the right to freedom of expression by high officials due to the nature and power of their office and the consequences that such statements may have.
The increasing threats against Mr Villalba, his legal team and his client, as well as the continuing public statements by the current president of Colombia and other high officials about the case against Mr Uribe, undermine judicial independence and contribute to a growing climate of hostility against members of the legal profession.
It’s therefore of the utmost importance and urgency that the international community expresses its full support for the lawyers and judges involved in this case so that they can continue to exercise their professional duties with integrity and without undue external interference.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation of Mr Villalba, his legal team and his client, as well as judicial independence in Colombia.
We called for interventions to request that the Colombian authorities:
2012 – the former president of Colombia, Mr Uribe Velez, denounced Mr Cepeda before the Supreme Court because of alleged offences of fraud and abuse of a public function
2018 – the Supreme Court concluded that there were no grounds to open a criminal investigation into Mr Cepeda’s activities
16 February 2018 – the Supreme Court opened a criminal investigation into Mr Uribe for alleged offences of bribing witnesses and fraud, in which Mr Cepeda is a civil party and victim. Mr Villalba is representing Mr Cepada and has received threats
3 August 2020 – the presidents of all the High Courts of Colombia – the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Council of the Judiciary, and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace – issued an unprecedented joint statement insisting on the independence of the judiciary
4 August 2020 – the Supreme Court ordered Mr Uribe’s house arrest