Iván Velásquez Gómez, Colombian lawyer and human rights defender receives 2011 IBA Human Rights Award

Iván Velásquez Gómez

Colombian lawyer Dr Iván Velásquez Gómez was today presented with the International Bar Association (IBA) Human Rights Award, for his outstanding contribution as a legal practitioner to human rights. Dr Velásquez, who has worked tirelessly and courageously throughout his career on parliamentary transparency and fighting organised crime in Colombia, was presented with the prestigious award during the IBA’s Annual Conference in Dubai.

As a result of his work on government transparency, Dr Velásquez has endured persistent harassment, surveillance and government plots to arrest him, through manipulated testimonies and accusations of bribery. 

The IBA Human Rights Award, sponsored by LexisNexis,  recognises personal endeavour in the field of law which makes an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights and the rule of law. It is an annual award presented to the selected winner at the IBA Rule of Law Symposium, on the last day of the IBA Annual Conference.

Since 2006, Dr Velásquez  has led the Commission for Investigative Support of the Supreme Court of Colombia, charged with investigating links between politicians and high ranked State  Officers with parliamentary groups, drug-traffickers and organised crime, known in Colombia as the ‘parapolitics’ phenomenon.  Investigations co-ordinated by Dr Velásquez  have led to the conviction of 23 high profile leaders, 16 currently undergoing trial, 99 under preliminary investigation, 13 under investigation and 3 have been acquitted. Dr Velásquez has also investigated the relationship between illegal power, land concentration, State counter-reform, and development models imposed in the country.

IBA President, Akira Kawamura said, ‘The IBA is delighted to present Dr Velásquez  Gomez with the 2011 IBA Human Rights Award.  He is a worthy winner.  Throughout his long-standing legal career Dr Velásquez has demonstrated courage and commitment to human rights and justice in Colombia, in a challenging context.’  

Dr Velásquez said, ‘This Award will send a message more widely than you may realise to those who have abused power in my country. I receive it on behalf of all those who have spoken out bravely against this abuse.’

Click here to read Dr Velásquez's acceptance speech (English translation)

Previous Winners:

2010 Clive Stafford Smith, United Kingdom. Presented with the award for his commitment to bringing legal rights to the most vulnerable and to those who cannot afford representation. In addition, for his work defending individuals on death row, ensuring due process and justice for those wrongly convicted.

2008 Femi Falana, Nigeria. Presented with the award as recognition of his commitment to the legal profession and the promotion of human rights, and the significant impact in increasing access to justice and ending the culture of impunity in the West Africa region.

2006 Maria Inés Miranda Navarro, Spain. Presented with the Award for her dedication in promoting and protecting human rights in the disputed territories of Western Sahara.

2004 George Bizos, South Africa. Presented with the Award for his outstanding contribution to human rights law in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, one of the many who nominated Mr Bizos said, ‘I know of no person more worthy for this honour’.

2002 Pheroze Nowrojee, Kenya. Presented with the Award for his work in defence of capital punishment cases and abolishment of the death penalty in Kenya and Tanzania and his representation of both individuals and organisations in cases concerned with a diverse range of human rights issues.

2000 Asma Jahangir, Pakistan. Presented with the Award for her work to promote and protect human rights in Pakistan and for her promotion of human rights.

1998 Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria. Presented the Award for his ongoing campaign for a just rule of law in Nigeria.

1997 Lucy Banda Sichone, Zambia. Presented with the Award for work representing disadvantaged members of her local community in Zambia and her civic education activities.

1995 Saul Lehfreund, United Kingdom. Presented with the Award for his work to advance the rights of death row prisoners in the Caribbean.

IBA President Akira Kawamua with Iván Velásquez Gómez



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