The Foundation Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP), works so that the rights of people deprived of liberty for political reasons are respected a guaranteed. It is committed to liberty, justice and dignity. It has six offices around the country (Santander, Cundinamarca, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Atlantico and Tolima) and two support teams in Cauca and Arauca. They have about 110 members defending human rights in Colombia, including many volunteers and delegates from different social organisations.
FCSPP was first born as a human rights organisation in Colombia in 1973, and several social and trade union organisations and well known Colombians took part in creating it, to deal with a context of the widespread prosecution of social, union and student leaders, and of political opposition.
The organisation survived the hardest periods of Colombia’s recent history including the last years of the National Front, the permanent state of siege, the genesis of paramilitary groups and the subsequent years of terror in the 1990s; a context in which it has been subjected to the continuous persecution of its members.
See the complete history of the FCSPP in a multimedia journey through 40 years of solidarity and defending human rights.
FCSPP’s main area of work is providing legal and humanitarian advice and representation for people who have been deprived of liberty for political motives. It also holds activities for strengthening community and institutional organisation and human rights training. It monitors the humanitarian situation in prisons around Colombia and intervenes at a local, regional and national level for conditions to be improved. On an international level, it researches and publishes reports on the human rights situation in Colombia.
FCSPP has contributed to creating initiatives to end impunity such as the ‘Colombia Nunca Mas’ project, and creating ways of articulating social movements like the Colombia Europe United States Coordination (CCEEUU) and the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE). FCSPP is also part of the Colombian Coalition Against Torture, the network Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia (RedHER), and the campaigns Por una Paz Completa, Mesa Social para la Paz and Defender la Libertad: un Asunto de Todxs.
FCSPP visits 52 of the 138 prisons in Colombia, including the largest in the country, and is able to reach most of the detained population. It has denounced the gravity of the prison situation, from overcrowding to restrictions on access to water, the lack of medical attention, and even acts of torture. The 138 prisons in Colombia have accommodation for 75,000 people, but they currently hold 120,000 people deprived of liberty. Overcrowding is more than 50%.
Criminalisation of social protest
In Colombia, 2013 was marked by important social demonstrations in which there is evidence of grave human rights violations and the excessive use of force by the police and military. Through FCSPP, there was a hearing called on 31 October 2013 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on the situation of social protest in Colombia, at which the petitioners, FCSPP, the Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo (ASCAMCAT), Corporación Reiniciar, the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH), and the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP) manifested serious concerns about the repression of social protest in Colombia. Read more
FCSPP has about 80 cases of extrajudicial executions, especially in the departments of Arauca, Casanare, Boyaca and the city of Bogota.
Stories from the field: Hearing in Ocaña
In Casanare, FCSPP represents the relatives of around twenty victims of extrajudicial executions committed by soldiers of the 16th Brigade which was then under the command of Colonel William Torres Escalante, former commander of the 5th Division of the Army. Read more
Land restitution: the case of Hacienda Bellacruz
FCSPP also provides integral accompaniment and legal representation for farming communities in land restitution cases. The case of Hacienda Bellacruz, also known as Hacienda La Gloria in southern Cesar, is perhaps its most emblematic. Read more
Risks, threats and attacks
During the course of its existence, FCSPP has reported threats, harassment, being followed, torture, arbitrary detentions, baseless prosecutions and the murder of several of its members; facts which resulted in several FCSPP offices having to close permanently and some of their members being forced into exile.
This has not changed in recent years, according to lawyer Franklin Castañeda: “what we are seeing is a phenomenon in which human rights defenders who work on peace issues, for the human rights of victims, in prosecuting State crimes, and in land restitution cases, are being widely targeted by violence and we are doing our work in quite precarious security situations”. In FCSPP, “the people who have been the most visible have all had to face some kind of risk during their time working here. For more than forty years we have taken on something which is quite difficult, which is calling the Colombian State’s attention for it to respect its own laws and procedural guarantees, even when it is judging its enemies. Real democracy is measured when you are able to respect your own norms even when judging your worst enemy. And sadly in Colombia this hasn’t been understood. The consequence is that this organisation is one of the most victimised. These risks, threats and acts of aggression are part of the armed forces’ perception that human rights defenders are an internal enemy of the nation and their messaging that organisations are waging legal and political warfare against the security forces. This means that they have been treated as being at war.” (Franklin Castañeda and Zoraida Hernandez, President of FCSPP)
FCSPP was granted precautionary measures by the IACHR in 1999, and some of its members have measures from the National Protection Unit (UNP) Protection Program. However, these measures will not be sufficient unless the causes behind the risks to FCSPP’s members are eliminated. As of 2016, most of these attacks and acts of victimisation remain in impunity.
Awards and recognition
For over 40 years, FCSPP has received several awards and wide national and international recognition. Some of them include:
- In 1999, FCSPP was awarded the Liberty and Fraternity Prize from the French Embassy.
- In 2009, Gabriel Gonzalez, then regional coordinator for FCSPP, received the annual human rights award from Human Rights First, the US organisation, in New York.
- In 2014, FCSPP was amongst the final nominees for the National Award for Defending Human Rights in Colombia in the category “lifetime recognition for long-standing organisations”.
PBI has accompanied FCSPP since 1998.
“The international accompaniment and solidarity of Peace Brigades (…) which has really served as a fundamental part of guaranteeing not just our ability to do what we want, to defend human rights, but also what is a fundamental and a primary requisite for defending human rights, and that is our lives. I am one of the people who is constantly saying that we are grateful to Peace Brigades and other international institutions, because we owe them everything, we owe them life, the possibility of genuinely being able to do something and we all owe it to them. Because if you look closely, there is not one person who has been in the FCSPP for more than two or three years and who has a public role who has not had a concrete attempt against their life, against their family, against their freedom, their good name. And without a doubt, their role has been fundamental, they have been our right hand, our shield which really helped us to bear this pressure”. Franklin Castañeda
 Contra la impunidad en Colombia: Perfil Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos, sin fecha
 FCSPP: 40 años de solidaridad y defensa de los derechos humanos, 2013
 Agencia Prensa rural: “Se dice que no hay presos políticos en Colombia, pero hay presos claramente discriminados por razones políticas”, 14 July 2012
 Radio Macondo: El sistema carcelario en Colombia y la mega cárcel que tendrá Popayán, 27 July 2016
 The Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman states that there is 58,6% overcrowding in prisons. Defensoría del Pueblo: Defensor insiste en la declaratoria de emergencia social para enfrentar el hacinamiento carcelario, according to data by the Colombian prison service Instituto Penitenciario de Colombia (Inpec) there was 51,6% overcrowding in February 2015. Inpec: Informe Estadístico de Agosto de 2016
 The human rights and social conflicts database CINEP/PPP registered 1027 protests in 2013 alone, the highest year since 1975. Cinep/Programa por la Paz: Informe Especial: Luchas sociales en Colombia 2013, April 2014
 Human Rights Brief: Derechos humanos y protesta social en Colombia, 7 November 2013
 PBI Colombia: Interview with Franklin Castañeda, 17 September 2015
 Interview with Franklin Castañeda, 17 September 2015; FCSPP: Detienen seis soldados por ejecución extrajudicial de Daniel Torres y Roque Julio Torres T, 28 October 2008
 FCSPP: 40 años de solidaridad y defensa de los derechos humanos, 2013
 PBI Colombia, interview with Zoraida Hernández, 29 September 2016
 FCSPP: Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos finalista en Premio Nacional a la defensa de los DDHH, 10 September 2014