Faculty enjoys human rights talk by Scot working in Colombia
A Scottish lawyer has given an illuminating talk on the struggle for human rights in conflict-stricken Colombia.
Simon Crabb took time out on a visit home from South America to deliver a presentation for the Faculty’s Human Rights and Rule of Law Committee.
He said Colombia had suffered more than 60 years of armed conflict but peace negotiations were bringing hope to its people. The conflict had cost 220,000 lives, while 50,000 people had disappeared and there were 6,000,000 victims of enforced displacement.
“The principal victims are people stuck between the two sides and that includes lawyers and human rights defenders who play a key role in standing up for people’s rights,” said Mr Crabb, a legal advisor and project co-ordinator in Colombia for Lawyers Without Borders, Canada.
“We work with local lawyers in the field who have limited resources and are often at great risk themselves and their families…The unfortunate truth in countries like Colombia is that often lawyers who stand up and represent people will themselves become victims.”
Mr Crabb said transitional justice was vital in the quest for peace. It had been defined as “…the set of judicial and non-judicial measures…to redress legacies of massive human rights abuses.”
He added: “You have to have a holistic approach and transitional justice is always evolving and is situation-specific. The key issue for us is compliance with international law. Our role is solely interested in respect for human rights and the rule of law. We have no preferences as to the political future of Colombia, that is a choice for the people there. We do a lot of outreach work, going into the universities and speaking to the students.”
Mr Crabb completed a law degree at the University of Strathclyde before studying international law and international relations, including conflict studies, at the Complutense University of Madrid.
On returning to Scotland, he undertook his traineeship at the Crown Office, and worked as a Procurator Fiscal Depute in the Highlands.
In 2012, he moved to Colombia as a field and advocacy officer for Peace Brigades International, Alliance for Lawyers at Risk. He has been with Lawyers Without Borders, Canada since 2013.
He said: “You definitely are changed by the things you see and hear. You also get very inspired by the people you work with, people who have often been completely let down by the justice system but who struggle on in the face of all the obstacles and threats and intimidation. Quite a number of them achieve quite incredible results, and it is inspiring to see victims becoming empowered by the justice system.
“You see the worst of people, but you also see the best of people and it gives you some faith in humankind.”