The Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL) is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the judicial defence and promotion of human rights and the rights of peoples. Their members represent victims of State crimes at national and international courts, and fight against injustice and impunity.


CJL was founded in 1993 by a group of legal professionals who believed that it was important for the city of Medellin (Antioquia) to have an organisation dedicated to defending and promoting human rights from a legal perspective.[1]

The organisation mainly works in Medellin, Eastern Antioquia and in the department of Choco.[2]

CJL is part of the Colombia Nunca Más project alongside 16 other social and human rights organisations. The project fights against impunity for human rights violations committed in Colombia between 1966 and 1998, through the premise of recovering historical memory.[3]

It is also a member of different platforms like the Colombia Europe United States Coordination (CCEEUU) and the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE)


As well as providing legal representation to the victims of human rights violations who seek truth, justice and reparation, CJL accompanies communities and grassroots organisations and processes, who are defending their lands and rebuilding historical memory in the face of oblivion. Their activities also include human rights training in the communities so that victims can be aware of and demand that their rights be enforced.[4]

Selected casework

Enforced disappearances in La Esperanza

Between 21st June and 27th December 1996, the paramilitary group Autodefensas Campesinas del Magdalena Medio (ACMM) disappeared 16 people, including three children, in the hamlet of La Esperanza in the municipality of El Carmen de Viboral (Eastern Antioquia), having labelled them as collaborators of the illegal armed groups that operated in the area.[5] Read more


Operation Orion

CJL represents relatives of the victims of Operation Orion which, according to the National Centre for Reparation and Reconciliation, was “the largest urban military operation ever to take place in Colombia”[6], which left one person dead, 28 injured and 355 arrested.[7] Read more


La Escombrera

According to testimony from witnesses and some former paramilitaries, La Escombrera, a vast area situated in the higher parts of the Medellin’s District 13, was used to dump construction waste and for “the clandestine burials of victims of enforced disappearances”.[8] Read more


Extrajudicial killings

CJL represents the relatives of the victims of approximately 60 cases of extrajudicial executions involving members of the Security Forces, most of which took place in Eastern Antioquia.[9] According to CJL, “in Antioquia during the period 2002 – 2010 there were 1050 recorded cases of extrajudicial executions. Most of them remain in impunity”.[10] Read more

Medellín CJL

Risks, threats and attacks

“The greatest threat we encountered is the attempt to embroil us in prosecutions where baseless charges are fabricated against some of our members to implicate them in sedition or as members of insurgent groups”.[11]

Caught up in defending themselves

CJL’s members have been targeted by death threats as a result of their work defending human rights.[12] For example, in June 2010 the organisation was declared to be a military target in a leaflet circulated by the AUC, a paramilitary group which had supposedly demobilised at the time.[13] Read more

Protection Measures

In June 2007, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures in favour of CJL’s members and requested that the Colombian State “adopt the measures necessary to ensure the life and physical integrity of the beneficiaries, and that it report on the actions taken to investigate judicially the facts that gave rise to the precautionary measures”.[14] According to CJL, the measures have yet to be effectively implemented.[15]

Awards and recognition

In May 2010, CJL was awarded the Georg-Fritze Gedächtnisgabe Human Rights Award by the Cologne Evangelical Churches (Germany). At the ceremony, the churches highlighted its work in defence of human rights in Colombia, and in particular the efforts of CJL lawyer Liliana Uribe, to shed light on extrajudicial executions in the country, and the fight for justice and reparation for what is considered a crime against humanity.[16]

That same year, CJL was awarded the distinction of being named Gran Defensor de los Derechos Humanos Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, the annual recognition by Medellin’s Council for dedication to the defence of human rights.[17]

In addition, CJL has been widely recognised for its work by the media and other important human rights organisations.[18]

International accompaniment

PBI has accompanied CJL since 2000.

“We believe that [PBI’s accompaniment] has played a recognisable part in dissuading armed actors in conjunction with State organisms, and all of PBI’s advocacy work has also contributed to this. They have also made it possible for us to enter new arenas. For example, with PBI’s support for some international speaking tours we were able to put certain issues on the map, for example extrajudicial executions” – Oscar Correa

“During the most critical periods, PBI’s accompaniment has enabled us to reach areas we could not otherwise have gone to, to accompany family farmer organisations in the midst of the armed conflict. It has also given us international visibility. PBI has given us important support in raising awareness about cases and about the persecution of members of the Corporation for Judicial Freedom”.[19] – Elkin Ramirez


Elkin Ramirez

He was one of CJL’s founding members in 1993. More than two decades later he continues the daily struggle to defend rural lands from new models of development which are being implemented in Antioquia. For Elkin, supporting these resistance initiatives is the most gratifying work he has done as a human rights defender. Read more

CJL Elkin RAmírez brigadista
Elkin Ramírez




[1] CJL: Quiénes somos, 24th February 2009
[2] PBI Colombia: Interview with Oscar Correa, 9th October 2015
[3] Colombia Nunca Más: Objetivos, 8th October 2008
[4] CJL: Quiénes somos, 24th February 2009
[5] Verdad Abierta: La Esperanza, 15 años de permanente recuerdo, 1st December 2011; El Colombiano: La Esperanza está viva tras 20 años de la masacre, 20th June 2016; IPC: Víctimas de La Esperanza pidieron no legalizar cargos a Ramón Isaza, 18th November 2016
[6] Semana: La foto que destapó los desmanes de la operación Orión, 15th August 2015
[7] According the Centre for Research and Popular Education (CINEP), of the 355 people detained, at least 185 were released after several days of arbitrary detention and 170 people were prosecuted. The charges against them included terrorism, conspiracy to commit crime, kidnapping, extortion and homicide. Political Violence Dadabase. CINEP and Justicia y Paz: Comuna 13, la otra versión, May 2003
[8] PBI Colombia: Operación Orión – 10 años después las mujeres siguen buscando a sus familiares, 27th November 2012
[9] PBI Colombia: Interview with Óscar Correa, 9th October 2015
[10] CJL: Falsos Positivos: Historias de Ejecuciones Extrajudiciales, el caso de Amparo Bermúdez, 23rd November 2015; In 2015, according to Human Rights Watch, the Public Prosecutor’s Human Right Unit was investigating more than 3,700 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions committed by State agents between 2002 and 2008. That same year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that the number of victims could reach 5,000. Op. cit. HRW 2015, UNHCHR: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia, 23rd January 2015
[11] Interview with Oscar Correa, 9th October 2015; Some of these cases are found at : CJL, IPC: Memoria de la impunidad en Antioquia, 2010
[12] IACHR: Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2007, 29th December 2007
[13] Avocats Sans Frontieres Canada and Colombian Caravana UK Lawyers Group: Colombia: The Legal Profession Still Under Attack – Report of the second international delegation of lawyers to Colombia. April 2011
[14] Op. Cit. Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
[15] Meeting between PBI and CJL members, October 2016
[16] CJL: Premio en derechos humanos “Georg-Fritze Gedächtnisgabe-2010”, 11th May 2010
[17] PBI Colombia: CJL: Otorgan distinción “gran defensor de los derechos humanos” a la Corporación Jurídica Libertad, 1st April 2010, 21st April 2010
[18] PBI Colombia: Interview with Oscar Correa, 9th October 2015
[19] Op. Cit. PBI Colombia: Interview with Elkin Ramírez

*Feature image: Charlotte Kesl

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