2010: A life in human rights – David Ravelo

Human rights defender David Ravelo had to withstand death threats, smear campaigns and prosecution after publicly reporting the paramilitaries for killing 7 civilians and disappearing a further 25 people in May 1998 in the city of Barrancabermeja. These incidents, known as the “massacre of Barrancabermeja” were the first step in a campaign of terror during which paramilitary groups took control of the oil capital of Colombia.

In 2010 David was arrested, accused of murder on the basis of two testimonies by two paramilitaries implicated in the 1998 massacre[1]. Despite the fact that he always protested his innocence, and that his lawyers revealed numerous irregularities in the legal process, he was sentenced to 18 years, seven of which he served in prison[2].

After exhausting all the legal possibilities in Colombia, in 2015 David’s lawyer, Reinaldo Villalba, decided to take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. One year later, he presented the case before the Special Peace Jurisdiction (Justicia Especial para la Paz – JEP), where it is being studied by the Review Section of the Peace Tribunal. Ravelo has currently been released on parole while awaiting the definitive decision of the Tribunal.

Throughout his ordeal, David never abandoned his work defending human rights. During his years in prison he wrote poetry, publishing the book Acúsame, cuentos y sueños de libertad (Accuse me, stories and dreams of freedom). He also held regular meetings with the authorities, state officials, trade unionists, and human rights defenders.

Since his release in 2017, and in spite of the threats he continues to receive, he has started working again with communities in his beloved Barrancabermeja.

In this video he tells us about what happened to him in 2010.


PBI Colombia


[1] PBI Colombia: David Ravelo: la voz que la cárcel no pudo callar, 18 de abril 2019

[2] PBI Colombia: En libertad David Ravelo después de casi siete años en prisión, 20 de junio 2017

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