Colombia: UN rights expert concerned about attacks on judicial system

Colombia: UN rights expert concerned about attacks on judicial system

A United Nations human rights expert today expressed grave concern over what he described as "the undermining of the rule of law and the administration of justice" in Colombia as a result of the escalation in fighting.

"Recent actions by armed groups are seriously undermining the ability of the judiciary to dispense justice," Dato' Param Cumaraswamy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the UN Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement.

"Attacks directed at the judicial system are particularly shocking, have no legitimate military objective and can only represent an attempt to threaten the independence of the judiciary, undermine justice and the rule of law," he added.

Mr. Cumaraswamy indicated that he had received information from the Supreme Court of Justice in Colombia highlighting attacks against the judiciary and calling for international support.

According to the Special Rapporteur, the Supreme Court reported that due to the recent escalation in violence, 368 courts in 231 municipalities in Colombia had come under threat, resulting in court closures and the displacement of judicial officials.

"An independent judicial system is a cornerstone of a democratic state based upon the rule of law, and an important safeguard for the protection of human rights," he stressed. "Respect must be accorded to its independent functioning."

The Special Rapporteur called upon all parties in Colombia "to ensure that all persons involved in the judicial system, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers and judicial civil servants, can discharge their duties freely so that access to justice for all Colombians remains unimpeded."