After the capture of his brother Santiago, former president Álvaro Uribe took a few days to reflect quietly. A couple of days later he read an extensive statement in which he dispatched against a series of characters whom he accused of being responsible for the situation of Santiago Uribe whom he called "political prisoner." On the father Javier Giraldo said that it was "A priest in the service of the terrorism. Defamator of profession " in reference to the fact that from the Center for Research and Popular Education, CINEP, Giraldo documented the case of Eunicio Pineda, one of the testimony that the Prosecutor later used to found the accusation against Santiago Uribe.
Indeed, as Coordinator of the Human Rights Data Bank and Political Violence of CINEP, Giraldo has documented hundreds of cases and his contribution has often been key for crimes and massacres not to remain in impunity and forgetfulness. Father Giraldo, a Jesuit, rejected Uribe's unfounded accusations through an interview in Noticias Uno. Now Jesuit priest Alejandro Ángulo, founder of CINEP and National Peace Prize 2013, responds to Uribe through this letter:
Why Defend Human Rights?
You have the right to defend your rights. This is a basic principle. And basic means that it does not depend on codes, nor institutions, nor laws. If one did not have that right to defend them, our rights would not exist.
And then why do some people believe that human rights defenders have no right to defend themselves and to help defend the rights of others? This is the million dollar question because, in general, what lies behind that denial of defense is a million hectares or many millions of pesos.
In fact, those who defend human rights are working for you, for me and for themselves. Because to defend human rights is to defend the right to the integrity of life, that of one and that of others. And those rights were invented so that ordinary people can defend themselves when their own governments attack them. It sounds absurd but it is: there are governments that kill their citizens, claiming the good of citizenship. So they kill one for their own good. And that is why international human rights law is to protect itself from governments that abuse their legitimate force that is intended for defense and not the offense of citizens. For that defense the legitimate government is authorized to maintain an army and a police force.
In fact, armies are designed to defend themselves against other countries in international wars. And the police, which is a civilian institution, is destined to collaborate in maintaining the public order in the country. It should not be an armed body.
But it happens and happens that in Colombia, due to the circumstances of the armed insurgency, the army is dedicated to internal warfare and the police are militarized. And since these circumstances are those of internal war, the whole Colombian panorama of the integrity of life has been overshadowed by a civil and dirty war, in which anti-guerrilla strategy, social repression and common criminality are mixed. The proliferation of homicide as a social relation is telling us that killing is not a solution to any problem. And that using murder as a means turns against the murderer. With this, the defense of human rights is becoming more urgent every day. And human rights defenders deserve special consideration, because in that proliferation of violence, The only useful resource is to defend the integrity of life at all costs. It is better for governments to defend defenders than to try to silence them.
By: Alejandro Angulo - CINEP