EJP

Corporación Equipo Jurídico Pueblos (EJP), is an organisation of legal professionals committed to promoting, protecting and ensuring that peoples’ rights and human rights are respected.

History

EJP emerged in 2008 in Bucaramanga (Santander), in response to the need to raise awareness about the resilience and defence of land rights through the integral accompaniment (through legal, political, organisational and psychosocial support) of communities who have been victims of human rights violations in Northeastern Colombia (Santander, Northern Santander and Cesar) and part of Magdalena Medio; regions where organisational and community initiatives and human rights defenders face complex socio-environmental conflicts, the criminalisation of peaceful protests and victimisation. The organisation was formally created in 2013.

It currently has support teams in Bogota, Valledupar (Cesar), Medellin (Antioquia), Ibague (Tolima), Popayan (Cauca) and Arauca. EJP also takes part in the Cumbre Agraria, Campesina, Étnica y Popular and the Congreso de los Pueblos.

Work

EJP’s main areas of work are the defence and promotion of human rights and the rights of peoples, representing victims of State crimes, providing assistance to political detainees in prison and other people deprived of liberty, the fight against impunity and the criminalisation of social protest, the defence of land and territory, and accompanying communities in their efforts to protect the environment.

The people that EJP accompanies are mainly farmers, including women, young people, children, afro-descendants, and members of trade union, student and community organisations who are being persecuted and criminalised under baseless charges. It also accompanies relatives of victims of serious human rights violations mentioned above.

Most of the population it works with has been displaced by the armed conflict or by economic interests aligned with large-scale extractive industries.

Some of the processes which EJP accompanies include the Comite de Integracion del Catatumbo (Cisca) in North Santander, the Movimiento de Trabajadorxs, Campesinxs y Comunidades del Cesar (MTCC) in Southern and Central Cesar, and the Congreso Ambiental de Santander Casa Aguaya in Santander.

Emblematic cases

The cases that EJP handles deal with economic and political interests, which implicate State agents, Security Forces, neo-paramilitaries, national and international businesses, landowners, cattle ranchers and palm oil agribusinesses which have committed or funded human rights violations.

They have succeeded in getting several cases transferred from military courts to ordinary courts. EJP has also succeeded in obtaining significant sentences for those who were found guilty. These achievements, however, are sometimes overshadowed by the rest of their cases which remain in complete impunity, according to the organisation. Their greatest achievement has been to create awareness amongst the family members of victims of human rights violations and communities who have been the victim of human rights abuses.

“The families discover that there are other people in the same situation, that theirs is not an isolated case, and they find out that they can choose to join forces with other families to demand truth and justice. In some regions, after they have lived through moments of acute terror, communities are bringing legal actions, speaking out about what happened, and genuinely constructing processes to create a collective memory of events which enables them to understand that the search for justice and truth cannot remain untold”.[1]

Extrajudicial killings

EJP represents the families of victims of State crimes such as extrajudicial executions, misleadingly known as ‘false positives’, in which they are demanding truth, justice, integral reparation and guarantees of non-repetition from the State, as well as results in the investigations by the justice system. Read more

Communities in Resistance

Pitalito: Caught between land grabs and eviction

In Cesar department, EJP accompanies communities which have had their property stolen and been forced off their farmlands by neo-paramilitary groups. To date, they have been unable to recover their lands, despite laws being ratified such as the Land Restitution Law, which by 2014 had aimed to recover 2 million hectares of land for approximately 400,000 families displaced by the violence. Nonetheless, obstacles such as threats and the murders of leaders in land restitution claims continue to take place.[2]

This happened to the community in Pitalito, (Chimichagua, Cesar), which fell victim to neo-paramilitary groups and the palm oil industry[3], and whose attempts to return to its lands have failed three times. Read more

Pitalito

Chiriguaná: The right to social protest

EJP believes that it is fundamentally important to accompany communities which have autonomously decided to exercise their right to social protest, as a way for them to be listened to and respond to the situations they are going through.

In this case, the organisation is demanding justice for the killing of the professor and leader of the La Sierrita, El Cruce and La Estacion Council of Black Communities (Consesice), Naimen Augustin Lara, who died on 11th July 2016. According to Chiriguana’s inhabitants he was killed by a gunshot fired by a member of the National Police, when the people of La Sierrita in Chiriguaná municipality (Cesar) were holding a day of peaceful protest against the Health Ministry’s decision to close the San Andres Public Hospital which provided health services to approximately 200,000 people in the area.[4] Read more

Risks, threats and attacks

The very nature of EJP’s cases and activities imply a risk, because they affect the economic and political interests of national and foreign commercial entities. This work has resulted in them being subjected to threats, surveillance, persecution, baseless criminal charges, illegal wiretapping and media smears which affect the safety and the personal integrity of EJP’s members.

“We were obliged to take on the defence of human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities because of the crisis caused by the violation of these rights in Colombia. This has put both our lives and our work in danger. We are concerned with the ‘post-conflict’ label being used: the Colombian State is implying that the risks for human rights defenders and for communities no longer exist.”[5]

Protection Measures

Currently, several of EJP’s members are beneficiaries of protective measures that the Colombian State provides through the National Protection Unit (UNP), because they have a level of “extraordinary risk”. Beyond the measures implemented by the UNP, however, independent accompaniment by civilians has been vital to EJP because it generates neutrality in the areas where the organisation works, which in turn helps to dissuade and diminish the risks.

“This is why EJP considers that PBI’s accompaniment is fundamental and enables us to continue our work as human rights defenders in high risk areas.”

International Accompaniment

Pitalito PBI

PBI has accompanied EJP since 2016. However, PBI has accompanied its three founding members since 1998 when they were part of the FCSPP’s office in Bucaramanga.

Profile

leonardo-jaimes-marin-ejp_web

Leonardo Jaimes Marín has dedicated his entire life to defending human rights. He began as a Claretian order seminarian in 1988, a year later he began accompanying farmers from El Carmen de Chucuri and since then has remained devoted to a “profound life choice at the service of marginalised sectors” as he describes his work. Read more

Contact

EJP’s website
EJP’s Facebook


Footnotes:

[1] PBI Colombia, Interview with Leonardo Jaimes, founding member of EJP, October 2016
[2] PBI Colombia: Retornar al campo, June 2013
[3] Verdad Abierta: Pitalito, Cesar, una vereda entre el despojo y el desalojo, undated
[4] El Espectador, El Hospital San Andrés al borde de su cierre, 14th November 2016; El Espectador, Dos muertos en protestas por servicio de salud en Chiriguaná, 11th July 2016
[5] PBI Colombia: Op. cit., October 2016

making space for peace

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