For Immediate Release: September 29, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First welcomes the release of Colombian human rights defender Carmelo Agámez, who was freed after serving three years on baseless charges. The organization said that many other Colombian activists like Agámez remain unjustly imprisoned and deserve justice.
“We are extremely relieved that Carmelo Agámez is out of prison and back with his family. His case has long been an example of how the Colombian justice system does not protect human rights defenders from baseless charges meant to silence their work and defame them in their communities,” said Human Rights First’s Quinn O’Keefe. “The Colombian government’s leadership may have changed, but the persecution of human rights defenders through the nation’s courts continues. Just last month, human rights defender Principe Gabriel González was re-arrested to serve out a seven year sentence after proceedings that do not meet Colombia’s own standards of due process. We urge Colombian President Santos to pardon González and for the government to protect him until he is freed from jail.”
According to Human Rights First, Agámez is a prominent human rights defender who, in his capacity as Technical Secretary of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes, exposed human rights violations perpetrated by paramilitaries. He also brought to light the connections between public officials and paramilitaries. Agámez’s advocacy led to his own arrest in 2008, when he was charged with collaborating with right-wing paramilitaries, the very groups he worked relentlessly to stop. Agámez was never convicted of these charges. He was released this week because the time he has already served matched the maximum sentence for the charges pending against him.
In 2009, Human Rights First awarded González for his work advocating for the rights of political prisoners as the Regional Coordinator for the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee. Also that year, he testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about patterns of harassment against human rights defenders in Colombia. González was re-arrested this August to serve a seven-year sentence based on unsubstantiated charges of rebellion and association with FARC.
Human Rights First profiled both Agámez and González in a 2009 report documenting widespread use of trumped-up charges to silence Colombian human rights activists.