Fair trial for Human Rights Defender


In support of a South American human rights defender, Simpson Millar’s legal services director has urged the Colombian ambassador to the UK to help ensure, against all odds, that he gets a fair trial.

David Rabelo CrespoPolitical prisoner David Rabelo Crespo has been held in La Modelo since 14 September 2010 on accusations of 'conspiracy to commit a crime' and 'aggravated homicide'. The final hearing in his trial opens today and Justice for Colombia, a British NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers' rights, peace and social justice in Colombia, is calling for international support to ensure that Mr Rabelo gets a fair trial.

Mr Rabelo has made several high profile public denouncements against former president Uribe and his human rights work has led to the imprisonment of numerous paramilitaries along with members of the Colombian army. The fact that the case against him is based largely on testimonies from former paramilitaries is therefore of grave concern.

"Before his arrest Mr Rabelo was the spokesperson for CREDHOS – a regional human rights group. He was also a prominent member of Colombia’s largest human rights organisation, MOVICE. His imprisonment yet again raises serious concerns for the rights and safety of Colombian’s unionists," said Bryan Nott who returned from a visit to Colombia earlier this month.

Equally pressing is the safety of Mr Rabelo's son who recently received a death threat which declared him a military target. Justice for Colombia is asking the government to arrange for his urgent protection and to launch an investigation into the source of the threat which appears to have come from the Colombian National Police.

"I urge Ambassador Mauricio Rodriguez to stress to his government at home the importance of a free and fair trial for Mr Rabelo, as well as push for an investigation into the threats issued against his son," said Bryan. "There is a culture of intimidation and violence against unionists and human rights campaigners in Colombia and more must be done to improve the situation."

According to Justice for Colombia, Mr Rabelo's detention is a reprisal for his work dedicated to the defence of human rights, and an attempt to silence any further criticism. He is just one of many MOVICE members who are believed to have been targeted because of their work; one of hundreds jailed for speaking out in Colombia.

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