“We are going to make way for something that gives us hope, we are going to bring a voice here, the voice of someone who has been the unjust victim of reprisal, and who I think symbolises the criminalisation of the social movement in Colombia. Last year during the Eleventh Asturian Verification Mission I had the opportunity and honour to be with David Ravelo and with Uber Ballesteros in the Picota (Bogotá prison). And here we have a five minute recording of his voice”. (Event in the European Parliament: The Peace Process in Colombia; Progress in the negotiations. Member of the European Parliament, Javier Couso. 23rd of February 2016).
As I listened again to these words, I remembered the moment that David was arrested. It was past midday on the 14th of September 2010, our colleagues Tere and Carly rang to tell us the bad news: he had been arrested and they didn’t know where he had been taken. A few days later, and overcoming the bureaucratic paperwork, we were allowed to enter the Picota in Bogotá to visit him. There David received us with a smile and exclaimed “I am innocent and although I will have to show it from prison, that is what I will do, because the truth will make us free”.
Since then there have been many visits; to the Picota in Bogotá, to the Modelo in Bucaramanga and most recently to the prison in Barrancabermeja. Many cups of coffee drunk, smiles, worries, doubts, moments of happiness, poems and hope. There have been many phone calls and meetings with individuals and authorities from the international community to bring attention to his case, to transmit the irregularities that have been reported, to demand security guarantees for David and the members of his family who were still being threatened. Many public hearings in the Palace of Justice in Bucaramanga, many sit-down protests and protests that we have accompanied. Many letters and international press releases, blogs and videos. Many, many, many…
However, the 23rd of February last year was the first time that David Ravelo’s voice was heard in a chamber of the European Parliament, in an event organised by the Euro-deputies Javier Couso and Marine Albiol. A voice that, again, demanded justice due to the irregularities in his case, and in the cases of other human rights defenders who are facing similar situations. It was a voice that demanded respect for the noble activity of defending human rights. A voice that celebrates the agreement on justice achieved in Havana and that demanded that we continue the long journey towards a country in peace, a sustainable and stable situation of peace that will last. A peace where the truth will make us free.
The case of David Ravelo has been chosen as case of the month in the campaign Stand4HumanRightsDefender created by the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), a network of more than 50 international organisations, (amongst others, PBI), that work in the field of human rights and peacebuilding. In the context of this campaign several actions are proposed in relation to David Ravelo’s case as well as other human rights defenders who have had criminal proceedings brought against them in several different countries.