The International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) has asked Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos to retract his criticisms of a human rights NGO for their involvement in representing victims of the 1997 Mapiripan massacre.
The president made the criticisms against the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR), a Colombian non-government organization that seeks to defend and promote human rights in the country. Santos called the NGO “corrupt” and accused them of exploiting the massacre and generating “stigma and disrepute.”
In an open letter from the IFHR, along with the World Organization Against Terrorism, the two organizations asked Juan Manuel Santos to retract his statements and to recognize the ongoing work of the lawyers collective. According to the letter, CCAJAR plays an essential role in the defense of human rights in Colombia.
The letter stated that the CCAJAR, “has demonstrated its commitment in representing victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes for over 30 years.”
The intention of the letter is to exonerate the lawyers collective for its involvement in representing five families in the case of the 1997 Mapiripan massacre, some of whom have since turned out to be false victims.
The Mapiripan massacre became engulfed in controversy in late October when an investigation by the Prosecutor Generals office concluded that there were 10 victims of the massacre, not 50, as had been concluded by the Inter American Court of Human Rights.
The letter claims that the lawyers collective was not responsible for identifying the families as victims as they had been presented as victims by the Colombian state, to the International Court of Human Rights.
President Juan Manuel Santos has been highly critical of the legal process that identified the 50 victims and ordered the Colombian state to pay millions of dollar in compensation, calling it “a mockery of the international human rights system.”
However, the international human rights bodies responsible for the investigation has accused the Colombian state for failing to properly investigate the event and for providing inadequate information to the investigative bodies. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights stated in a press release, “the commission reiterates that it is the state’s obligation to properly investigate the human rights violations that have occurred in Colombia.”