Globe, Latin America

The Colombian conflict on film

In August, the third Caravana Internacional de Abogados (International Lawyers’ Human Rights Delegation) will travel to Colombia to condemn the situation the country’s lawyers find themselves in.  They have organised a fundraising evening of cinema.

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The Colombian Caravana was set up in 2008 to support lawyers working for the defence of human rights within the country’s conflict, and to condemn treatment of the lawyers, as they themselves very often became victims.

According to the organisation, over the last 20 years at least 350 lawyers have been murdered and many more currently live under threat from armed groups and contract killers, because they represent victims of the conflict.

For this reason, the Caravana believes that “peace and justice will never be achieved without a cleanly functioning legal system”.  This is why representatives of the organisation are working with the country’s authorities to ensure lawyers are protected and the attacks and killings are investigated.

The first Caravana travelled to Colombia in 2008 as part of an international delegation of some 40 British lawyers who went over to investigate the killings and the harassment being suffered by the country’s lawyers.

This year, the third Caravana Internacional de Abogados will visit Colombia at the end of August, and they have organised an evening of cinema based around themes relating to the country’s problems, as a way of raising some of the funds needed to pay for the organisation’s work.

The first of the films shown will be the documentary “Impunity” (2010) directed by Colombian journalist Hollman Morris and the Swiss-Colombian director Juan Jose Lozano.

The documentary deals with the prosecution of paramilitary leaders, demobilised under the 2005 Justice and Peace Law, who were offered vastly reduced sentences in return for their cooperation in detailing the crimes that had been committed.

The documentary contains testimonies from the leaders of human rights organisations, a paramilitary leader who has confessed to being responsible for the murder of 1200 people, as well as Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and judge Baltasar Garzón, who were entrusted with overseeing the 2008 proceedings.

The second of the films will be director Joshua Marston’s “Maria full of grace” (2003) which brings together themes that are of importance to Colombia, such as workers rights and drugs trafficking.

Every year over the past decade Colombia has seen more union representatives murdered than any other country.  The issue of how workers’ rights can be guaranteed in the country under the International Labour Organization (ILO), and by whom, has been one of the most widely discussed subjects during recent international forums.

Similarly, drugs trafficking is another of the problems linked to the conflict as both the FARC rebels and paramilitary groups have used the drugs trade to fund their operations.

The two films will be introduced by Peter Burbridge, Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminter School of Law, and author of “Justice and Peace? The role of law in resolving Colombia’s conflict”. Members of the Caravana will also hold a Q&A session with the audience.  The films will be shown on 24th July from 6.00pm to 10.00pm in the University of Westminster’s Old Cinema on Regent Street.

(Translated by Viv Griffiths)

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