Luís Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective
The Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) is made up entirely of women and has been providing legal assistance to people for over fifteen years. One of its aims is to bring the law within the reach of communities, and use a gender, differential and territorial focus to support victims of grave human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, particularly small-scale farmers, women, indigenous peoples, community processes and traditional mining communities. Its work focuses on the fight against impunity, defending collective and environmental rights, biodiversity and territory in areas that have historically been deeply affected by the Colombian armed conflict.
CCALCP is a member of the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordination (CCEEUU) and participates in the Eduardo Umaña Mendoza Colombian Lawyers’ Association and the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movice).
Reasons why CCALCP was created
CCALCP began working in the city of Bucaramanga in 2001 because its members saw that there was no specialist organisation in the region providing legal accompaniment and advice to underprivileged, unionist or displaced sectors of the population from a humanitarian perspective, or that was comprehensively involved in defending and protecting human rights.
At the time CCALCP was founded, a serious humanitarian crisis was unfolding in Colombia’s northeast and Magdalena Medio regions. The political, social and armed conflict endured by the population in those areas put them at the top of the statistics for forced displacement in the country. In Madgalena Medio and the Catatumbo region, communities living in the midst of armed conflict were struggling to resist becoming displaced, and thousands of families fled to nearby cities like Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Cucuta and Ocaña.
CCALCP has contributed to training and empowering numerous vulnerable sectors of the population in northeastern Colombia and Magdalena Medio. With over fifteen years of experience in litigation, grassroots education and political advocacy, the organisation has succeeded in becoming a reference in the region, strengthening several grassroots organisational processes and mobilising to defend rights-holders in national and international courts.
In the Magdalena Medio region it accompanies the Regional Association of Victims of State Crimes in Magdalena Medio (Asorvimm); the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights (CREDHOS); the Asociación de Hermandades Agroecológicas y Mineras de Guamocó (Aheramigua); and the Walter Mine Miners’ Association (Asomiwa).
In the department of North Santander, it accompanies the Roundtable for Strengthening Organisations of the Displaced Population, the Catatumbo Family Farmers’ Association (Ascamcat) the Association of the Displaced of Ocaña Province (Asodepo) and the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movice) – North Santander Chapter.
In Santander it accompanies the Committee for the Defence of the Water and Moor of Santurban, the Charala Committee for Environmental Oversight, and the family farmers who are defending the las Ortices laguna.
Selection of cases it accompanies and represents
Fight against impunity
Due to its long trajectory, CCALCP has achieved significant progress in the rights to truth, justice, integral reparation and guarantees of non-repetition. It has obtained legal rulings which demonstrated the responsibility of the Colombian state in the commission of serious human rights violations.
This has included ten judgments in favour of victims, and representing victims of grave human rights violations at the Inter-American Human Rights System. These judgments have repeatedly acknowledged the State’s responsibility for crimes of enforced disappearance, baseless prosecutions and extrajudicial executions.
“The fact of obtaining guilty verdicts for soldiers responsible for crimes like extrajudicial executions is a strong message in terms of justice and truth. To see that those who shot, tortured, gave the order, promoted or financed all these crimes are being punished is encouraging for two reasons: one, because [the victims] see that the judicial apparatus is working, they are given hope that years of upheavals are being settled, crimes that had been flourishing in impunity and nothing was being done. They are also important because the names of victims who died and who disappeared are being cleared. The public now knows that they were a teacher, a farmer, a trade unionist, a human rights defender, and they will stop being labelled terrorist guerrillas. This is so important to the families. (…) Every judgement is a truth. It is the best way of telling the world, “what we said was true. It was worth it” “, Julia Figueroa, Director of CCALCP.
Defence of the territory
Water is a human right
Since 2010, CCALCP has supported causes that defend natural resources, especially water, in Santander department. The case of Santurban moor is very relevant. The moor is an important natural resource for Colombia and the source of drinking water for many municipalities in the department of Santander and North Santander. Nevertheless, as in other cases in Colombia, concessions have been granted to multinational companies for exploiting mineral resources, which are causing serious environmental impacts.
Alongside the Committee for the Defence of the Water and Moor of Santurban, CCALCP has fought tirelessly to preserve the moor, and their work resulted in the Constitutional Court finding in favour of a claim submitted by the organisations about the lack of effective, respectful and democratic participation for all the affected communities.
Territorial and differential rights of traditional miners
In the ambit of defending territory, CCALCP accompanies different organisational processes like the Catatumbo Family Farmers’ Association (Ascamcat) regarding its support for the Family Farmer Reservation Zone (ZRC),  a legal figure which acknowledges the rights of family farmers, and acknowledges their struggle to be recognised as political subjects with differential rights.
“Sing comrade sing!” (December 2012)
The campesino struggle in Catatumbo (June 2016)
In the territories of Guamoco (Southern Bolivar), CCALCP and the Family Farmers’ Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC-RAN) accompany Aheramigua, which is a social and human rights process active in Lower Cauca and Guamoco. In this region, CCALCP has also worked closely with Asomiwa, a process of resistance which is part of Aheramigua and which for years has been seeking recognition of their rights as a traditional mining community. This organisation has been in an extremely vulnerable position because Colombian mining policy does not recognise the rights of traditional miners, nor does it accept this activity as a valid means of subsistence. For Asomiwa, mining, as well as being a source for its subsistence, has enabled them to generate social organisation in this region where people have survived forced displacement and waves of persecution in the midst of the armed and social conflict.
Although the traditional miners who work in the area have begun the process of legalising their mining activities (a request that at May 2017 has yet to receive a response from the Colombian Government) they live in constant fear of eviction. Through litigation, CCALCP fights for the right to carry out traditional mining to be recognised, and for the rest of the rights that will enable them to remain on the land.
Forgotten villages (February 2016)
Democracy and citizenship in Guamocó (December 2016)
AHERAMIGUA: Our work is not invisible
Fracking in San Martin
San Martin, a municipality is Southern Cesar, is at risk of becoming Colombia’s primary area for fracking, the controversial technique for extracting petroleum and gas. The technique involves injecting millions of litres of water at high pressure, mixed with chemicals, to fracture rocks between one and three kilometres beneath the surface to extract the petroleum contained within. CCALCP, in conjunction with the Defence of Water, Territory and Ecosystem Corporation (Cordatec) presented a collective suit against the National Hydrocarbons Agency and two oil companies to protect the collective rights that are at risk from the development of a hydrocarbons exploration contract. 
Some of the actions that CCALCP is supporting or leading for the implementation Peace Agreements between the FARC and the Colombian Government, and the territorial peace initiatives it is accompanying, include the following:
National Peace Federation
CCALCP took part in creating and leading differential peace building initiatives in rural territories which are working towards a genuine and lasting peace, including the National Peace Federation (Fenalpaz).
Search for people presumed disappeared
CCALCP, in collaboration with organisations from North Santander who are part of Movice, is furthering research and case documentation about victims of enforced disappearance, which is enabling the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Cohabitation and Non-Repetition to progress initiatives stipulated in the Peace Agreement.
Education about the Peace Agreement in rural territories
Another initiative led by CCALCP is designed to ensure that the terms of the Agreement are reaching rural areas by providing education to enable farmers, victims and community processes to take on board the provisions of the Agreement and reflect on possible ways and actions for them to take part in its implementation in terms environmental and rural issues, and the people’s participation, etc.
Risks, threats and attacks
Between 2005 and 2016, CCALCP’s members were the victims of 43 threats and security incidents, including physical attacks, death threats, public smears, harassment, unlawful interception of their communications, and information theft. According to Julia Figueroa, the systematic attacks against CCALCP’s members have been in manners that specifically relate to them being women.
In 2010, the National Protection Unit (UNP) provided certain protection measures to the organisation, including a reinforced door, security camera at the entrance to their office, a bullet proof vest and a mobile phone. Since 2017, the organisation has collective measures which include a car and bodyguard, but its members nonetheless report that the measures are not enough to guarantee the lawyers’ safety.
Awards and recognition
Recognition for the noble cause of human rights: this was the reason for awarding CCALCP the Award for the Defence of Human Rights in Colombia. In 2012, there were 28 people nominated, including individuals, organisations and communities, who against wind and tide, and often under pressure and death threats, are advising and accompanying victims of the armed conflict and reclaiming their rights. Judith Maldonado, a lawyer for CCALCP (until 2015), received the award for “Defender of the year”. During the ceremony, Maldonado shared with the audience what she had learned in the last 11 years she spent working for human rights: “I learned through thousands of victims that I listened to who were displaced from their lands… I learned that there are indigenous communities like the Motilon Bari people in Catatumbo who resist being forced into a corner, who defend their territory and their culture”.
In 2016, CCALCP was awarded the National Award for the Defence of Human Rights in Colombia, as Collective Experience or Process of the Year – NGO/accompanier level. Julia Figueroa accepted the award with these heartfelt words:
“When I heard that we were the winner I was proud and I was touched. CCALCP is the life’s work of some women who one day decided to say, no more human rights violations, no more land theft, no to impunity, no to the economy they impose on us.”
Human Rights Prize: We are delighted and proud to be honoured with this award (September 2016)
PBI accompanies CCALCP since 2006.
Julia Figueroa speaks about the importance of international accompaniment:
“PBI means having one more political ally, one more ally to raise awareness, one more ally to tell the world about the realities that oppress the communities we accompany, that have them in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, where the State maintains the impunity they are subjected to. Thanks to PBI much of this information has been able to come out, with their awareness raising, communications, political advocacy, and it means that PBI supports its allies, that it is an armour in terms of effective security, through PBI’s extensive network, PBI is a vast international network. It is thanks to it that we were visited by a large number of embassies, to this city, to this office”.
 Number of people displaced according the municipality of arrival between 1999 y 2012: Barrancabermeja (Santander): 42.879 people; Cacuta (North Santander): 73.460 people; Bucaramanga (Santander): 51.727 people. Source: Codhes: Estadísticas Históricas de Desplazamiento, 2012
 Interview with Julia Adriana Figueroa, 8 October 2015
 Interview with Julia Adriana Figueroa
 El Espectador: “La delimitación de Santurbán fue inconsulta”: Colectivo de Abogados Luis Carlos Pérez, 9 February 2016
 For more information on the issue of ZRCs, see the interview with Yenly Mendez, the human rights defenders who works with the Family Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (Acvc-RAN) of 20 October 2015.
 Interview with Marcela Castellanos, former member of Ccalcp, 15 August 2014
 La Silla Vacía: Los pasos de gigante del fracking, 22 April 2016; La Silla Vacía: El miedo al fracking, el fantasma que recorre Colombia, 30 March 2017
 Ccalcp: Tribunal administrativo de Santander admite primera acción popular en Colombia por impactos técnica fracking San Martín, Cesar, 29 March 2017
 The Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Cohabitation and Non-Repetition is one of the entities created in the chapter on victims of the Final Peace Agreement for the end of the conflict and for building a stable and lasting peace, whose objective is to search for the truth and clarify what happened.
 Ccalcp, Informe de seguimiento a situacion de derechos humanos, internal document, 2016