Spying and improper surveillance by the Colombian Government: LWB Canada is concerned about the independence and safety of the judiciary and of lawyers who defend human rights in Colombia

    QUEBEC CITY, June 30 /CNW Telbec/ - Lawyers Without Borders Canada (LWBC)
is deeply concerned by recent attacks on the independence and safety of the
judiciary and lawyers who defend human rights in Colombia.
    It is now known that in 2004-2005, the Administrative Department of
Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad - DAS), an intelligence
agency under the authority of the President of the Republic, conducted a large
scale spying operation directed at several members of opposition political
parties, judges, journalists and human rights defenders.
    At present, former DAS Director Jorge Noguera is accused of homicide and
conspiracy to collaborate with paramilitary groups. During the course of its
investigation of Noguera, the office of Attorney General of Colombia searched
the DAS premises in Bogota and seized files that document an illegal
surveillance operation carried out by a covert unit of the DAS.
    "We are especially concerned to learn that the lawyers who defend human
rights with whom we work in Colombia, members of the Corporacion Colectivo de
Abogados José Alvéar Restrepo (CCAJAR), were one of the main targets of these
illegal operations," commented LWBC Program Manager Philippe Tremblay. The
seized DAS files contained photographs of lawyers and their relatives, along
with their psychological profile, curricula vitae, and details of their
movements and whereabouts. Officials from various international organizations,
such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the International
Federation for Human Rights, were also targeted by the G-3 during that same
    "To obtain this information, they did not hesitate to intercept emails
and listen to telephone conversations made by the CCAJAR and its members in
blatant violation of solicitor-client privilege," Tremblay added. In one of
the seized documents, it is explicitly stated that the purpose of the DAS
surveillance operation was to "neutralize the opposition". The documents also
make reference to the possibility of baseless criminal prosecution of those
who were spied on in order to impede their ability to work for the promotion
of justice.
    "As we have noted on many past occasions, the threats and violence
directed against those who defend human rights continues to worsen in
Colombia," observed Pascal Paradis, Executive Director of LWBC. "The role of
human rights advocates remains largely stigmatized by government authorities.
The safety and independence of lawyers and the judiciary are endangered in
direct violation of the UN Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers and on the
Independence of the Judiciary."
    This disdain for the work of human rights lawyers and judges hurts the
fight against impunity, protection and development of Colombia's rule of law,
the effective representation for victims and the quest for truth, justice and
adequate redress for the victims.
    LWBC is hopeful that the Attorney General's inquiry will result in the
identification and prosecution of those responsible for the illegal
surveillance operations, as well as reform in the practices of the
Government's counter-terrorism security operations.

For further information:

For further information: Me Philippe Tremblay, Program Manager, (418)
907-2607, philippe.tremblay@asfcanada.ca; Source: Lawyers Without Borders
Canada, www.asfcanada.ca

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