Jorge Molano is a lawyer and human rights defender who represents victims of human rights violations committed by State agents. He is currently a member of the association dhColombia, a network of independent human rights defenders.
Born in 1968, Jorge Molano was raised in a home with strong social values. He studied law at the Universidad Externado de Colombia. His beginnings as a human rights lawyer was alongside renowned lawyer and humanist José Eduardo Umaña Mendoza, who was murdered in 1998. He went on to work with several organisations until 2005 when he began working as an independent lawyer and legal counsel.
Jorge Molano represents the victims of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in national and international courts.
Palace of Justice
On 6th November 1985, a commando of guerrillas from Movimiento 19 de abril (M-19) assaulted the Palace of Justice in Bogota in an attempt to put the President at that time, Belisario Betancur, on trial politically, “as a reaction to what it considered to be breaches [by the government] of the peace agreements reached the year before”. The Security Forces responded to the assault with an operation to retake the Palace of Justice which lasted until 7th November 1985. These events, which have been called a ‘holocaust’, left 98 people dead (including eleven judges) and eleven people disappeared. Read more
Extrajudicial killings in Manizales
Darbey Mosquera Castillo, Alex Hernando Ramirez Hurtado and Jose Didier Marin Camacho, were three young unemployed men of few resources from Pradera (Valle del Cauca), who dreamed of earning some income for their families. Faced with a need to survive in a socio-economic context dictated by poverty and a lack of education and work opportunities, they headed for Manizales (Caldas) in the company of an Army soldier who had promised them paid work. Read more
Massacre in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó
On 21 February 2005, eight people were murdered (five adults and three children) from the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in a massacre carried out jointly by paramilitaries of the ‘Bloque Héroes de Tolová’ of the ‘Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia’ (AUC) and soldiers of the 17th Brigade of the National Army. Molano is the lawyer representing Colombian society in the case. Read more
In this operation, trade union leaders, human rights defenders and political leaders from Valle del Cauca were the target of an assassination plot and a smear campaign. In August 2004, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) discovered a series of official documents detailing Operation Dragon, which involved the illegal surveillance of 170 people (one of them was Berenice Celeyta, president of Nomadesc, an organisation accompanied by PBI), with the alleged purpose of murdering human rights defenders, trade union leaders and members of the political opposition in Colombia. The Public Prosecutor proved that the Army’s 3rd Brigade, Cali Police and the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) supported and collaborated in gathering the information. Read more
Criminalisation of social protest
Molano undertakes advocacy to defend civic liberties against the criminalisation of social protest.
Murder of Jhonny Silva
The lawyer represents the relatives of Jhonny Silva, a student at Universidad del Valle (Cali), murdered by members of the Police riot squad Escuadron Movil Antidisturbios (ESMAD) in 2005 during a student demonstration. As yet there have been no convictions in the case and in September 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) accepted the case of Jhonny Silva, and a formal case against the Colombian State was initiated. Read more
The Vandals’ Poster during the farmers’ strike
During the small scale farmers’ strike of August 2013, the Police published what they called “The Vandals’ Poster”, a poster showing photographs of 48 people who were “protagonists of acts of vandalism against the city and disproportionate aggression against the Security Forces”, including Alejandro Ospina Cogua, a student at the Universidad Pedagogica de Bogota. Jorge Molano represents the young man, because the poster is a breach of the student’s right to a decent reputation and integrity. According to Molano, there is no evidence to show that these individuals were vandals. Thanks to Molano’s intervention, a judge ordered that all the posters where Ospina appeared be taken down and that the people behind its publication be investigated. Read more
Risks, threats and attacks
Jorge Molano was one of the victims of the illegal wiretapping carried out by the Department of Administrative Security (DAS). During 2009, Molano was the target of continuous surveillance and intimidation at his home and office by unknown individuals. The lawyer attributes the persecution to the cases he represents. “The case of the disappearances of the Palace of Justice has reached a very high level. Furthermore, Army officers have been linked to the 2005 massacre in San Jose de Apartado”.
In 2015, Molano received a direct threat, relayed to him by the government, “when the Vice-Presidency, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with us to inform us that they are afraid that our lives are at risk, because part of the Generals’ Junta does not approve of our work and considers that our work affects the honour of the military”.
Further information is available on the most serious security incidents against Jorge Molano from 2009 to 2014.
Due to the risk he faces because of his work on the Palace of Justice, Operation Dragon and other cases, Jorge Molano was granted precautionary protection measures by the IACHR.
Despite several international and national orders for the Government to protect Molano, and the National Protection Unit (UNP)’s risk evaluation which determined that he faced “extraordinary” risk, the implementation of the protection measures have faced constant delays and irregularities in recent years.
In 2011, Molano gave back the protection scheme assigned to him by the DAS, because he considered that the Government had no real desire to guarantee his right to life. “At the end of April 2012, the Public Prosecutor informed us that the investigation hadn’t moved forward. We asked the Human Rights Directorate at the Interior Ministry to publicly recognising our work and our activities as a political protection measure. Three years later, the Ministry manifested that it could not publicly recognise this because it would increase our levels of risk”. In 2016, the situation has not changed.
Faced with these obstacles to their work, in May 2014, Jorge Molano and his colleague German Romero, also a member of dhColombia, publicly announced that they would be suspending their advocacy at all hearings of the Colombian justice system, because of the absence of the guarantees they are entitled to in order to carry out their profession. The lawyers explained that the Government had failed to comply with the order of the IACHR to implement protection measures. Finally, in 2015, a court in Cundinamarca ordered the UNP that protection measures must be implemented throughout the whole country, and that they cannot make changes to the measures without discussing them with the beneficiaries first.
Until now, the defenders have suffered: “attacks against family members, homes have been burgled for the purpose of stealing information, (their) emails and website have been hacked, (their) communications have been intercepted and triangulated , and they are being followed”. The same year, Jorge Molano and other defenders formally complained that the UNP had begun a gradual process of dismantling the protection measures, despite the Interior Minister affirming that the victims’ representatives would not suffer cut backs as a result of budget problems.
Awards and recognition
The United States of America’s Department of State granted a special mention to Jorge Molano in 2010, because of his work defending human rights in Colombia. This recognition is granted each year by the US Government to human rights defenders around the world. In this case, the Department of Sate stated that the lawyer had made clear sacrifices to defend the victims of human rights violations. “Molano is a brave human rights defender, whose work has been, and will continue to be, that of ensuring that those who commit human rights abuses are held responsible for their actions. His persistence and leadership, in spite of the serious danger he faces and the little monetary reward he receives, are inspirational and worthy of international recognition”, said the US Embassy in its statement.
PBI has accompanied Jorge Molano since 2009.
“PBI’s accompaniment is of paramount importance in the country because the Colombian State has not provided the guarantees that human rights defenders need to do their work. PBI’s accompaniment enables many of us defenders to stay in the country and not have to abandon our activities”.
 El Espectador: Un domador del miedo, 1 May 2011
 Interview with Jorge Molano, May 2012
 Semana: Hallan los restos de tres desaparecidos del Palacio de Justicia, 20 October 2015
 BBC Mundo: A 30 años de las “28 horas de terror”: así fue la toma del Palacio de Justicia en Colombia, 5 November 2015
 El País: Toma al Palacio, 25 años sin hacerse justicia, 31 October 2010
 Verdad Abierta: La condena a cuatro militares por la masacre de San José de Apartadó, 14 June 2012
 Human Rights First: Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia, 2009
 Interview with Jorge Molano, May 2012
 Interview with Jorge Molano, 29 August 2016; El Espectador: CIDH admitió caso de Jhonny Silva, estudiante que murió en una protesta, 22 September 2016
 The vandals’ poster shows photographs of people sought by Colombian justice and offers rewards to people who help to identify or locate them. These posters are distributed in public spaces, police stations and on the internet.
 Pacifista: La indemnización que tendría que pagar el Estado por supuestos abusos durante el Paro Agrario, 30 August 2015
 Interview with Jorge Molano, 16 September 2015; Noticias RCN: Prohíben publicar cartel de vándalos del paro agrario, 3 October 2013
 El Espectador: EE.UU. condecoró a abogado Jorge Molano por defensa de DDHH, 25 April 2011
 PBI Colombia: Operación Dragón: “Un caso de alarmante y descarada impunidad”, dice el abogado Jorge Molano, 14 May 2012
 PBI Colombia: Interview with Jorge Molano: “Me estoy cuidando tanto que he dejado de usar bloqueador solar”, April 2010
 Interview with Jorge Molano, 16 September 2015
 IACHR: Medidas cautelares 2001
 El Espectador: Ordenan restablecer medidas de protección a abogado defensor de derechos humanos, 14 October 2014
 El Espectador: Abogado protegido por la Cidh denuncia falta de garantías de seguridad, 4 March 2011; El Espectador: Op. cit., 25 April 2011
 Interview with Jorge Molano, 29 August 2016; PBI Colombia: Op. cit., 14 May 2012
 dhColombia: Abogados representantes judiciales de víctimas suspenden sus actividades ante la falta de garantías, 15 May 2014
 PBI Colombia: Quarterly Human Rights Bulletin, July to September 2014, 20 October 2014; El Tiempo: Santos reestructura la Presidencia con nuevos ministros consejeros, 14 August 2014
 El Espectador: Op. cit., 25 April 2011
 El Espectador: Los héroes sí existen, 26 June 2015