Iván Cepeda is a courageous human rights defender who has selflessly promoted the rights of victims of Colombia’s civil war and created a national social movement to call for justice. Motivated into activism by the brutal assassination of his father, Colombian Senator Manuel Cepeda Vargas, Iván is currently the Director of the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes, an umbrella organization of more than 200 Colombian human rights organizations. He is also a columnist in the leading Colombian newspaper El Espectador.
Iván has twice lived in exile to escape threats to his life. Throughout his career as a human rights defender, he has endured attacks and threats that stigmatize him and are calculated to deter him from carrying out his essential human rights advocacy.
Through remarkable perseverance Iván has demonstrated that paramilitary groups, with the complicity of members of the Colombian armed forces, have committed serious human rights violations. Despite facing considerable personal risk, he has helped document approximately 40,000 cases of serious human rights violations committed in Colombia since 1966.
Subject to Baseless Criminal Charges
Iván has been unjustly charged with slander and libel for exposing information about human rights violations implicating government officials.The charges against Iván appear designed to discredit him and prevent him from performing his vital work in promoting the rights of victims of Colombia’s civil war. Human Rights issued an alert and collected more than 1,000 signatures demanding that the Colombian Attorney-General drop the charges against Iván.
Awarded 2007 Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty
In 2007, Human Rights First awarded Iván the Roger N Baldwin Medal of Liberty. The Award recognizes the importance of Iván’s human rights work and that of other Colombian human rights defenders who are unfairly stigmatized by the Colombian government. Before accepting the award, Human Rights First organized a number of meetings for Iván with international organizations and U.S. policymakers in Washington and New York. Following those meetings 28 members of the US Congress wrote to the Attorney-General asking him to drop the charges against Iván. The letter received widespread media attention in Colombia. Read Ivan’s letter of thanks for the advocacy measures taken on his behalf here.