Adriana Patricia Castaño Roman

2011 JusticeMakers Fellow, Colombia

adriana_ibjAdriana Patricia graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of Antioquia, Senior Human Rights at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar (Quito-Ecuador).  She received a diploma in Public Service at the University of Antioquia and “Women and Post Diploma Human Rights: Theory and Practice at the Universidad de Chile and External University of Colombia” in 2009.  She served as Counsel for the Corporación Vamos Mujer, in advising and representing women in situations of violence and specific socio-political violence.  In 1999 she began a successful campaign in Colombia against police brutality, and worked with the Human Rights Committee of the Network of Community Organizations since 2003, responsible for the design of a protection strategy for community organizations and the production of training materials.

Adriana has worked as a defender for years, particularly in the field of the rights of youth in the city of Medellín.  Before studying law, Adriana belonged to various community based advocacy organizations.  After witnessing the persistence of violence in her community and the death of many young people, she began working directly with the Human Rights Program of the Youth Network in 1998.  From there she worked to create stronger concrete actions of resistance to the arbitrary arrests being perpetuated by police and to develop an alternative as a conscientious objection to armed groups that aimed to recruit young people for war. Her interest in the subject of criminal justice and human rights stems from her own personal history, living in the city of Medellín, passing through neighborhoods, and watching and listening to the continued stories of abuse perpetuated by the police and armed groups – and particularly witnessing the negative effect of these occurrences on the youth.

Adriana believes that “knowing about injustice is not enough, you need to do [and] encourage action.” She believes in encouraging the community and those being denied justice to envision a better world for themselves and make it a reality.

The Project: In Colombia the justice system is fraught with abuses that have repeatedly been reported to national and international human rights protection groups. In particular, human rights organizations in the city of Medellín have documented abuses by security forces perpetuated against individuals caught in flagrante delicto offenses, or in “transitory detention.” In the latter, requirements for court proceedings as required by the Colombian Constitution are often ignored, and a general atmosphere of conflict lies with the police – who often collude with illegal armed groups engaged in territorial control, mafia practices and counterinsurgency.  Administrative detention is not properly regulated and the police frequently perpetuate human rights violations.

In Medellín crimes are often committed by young people from poor neighborhoods who are detained and then forced to spend the night in police cells rife with inhumane conditions and torture.  These young detainees have no shelter, blankets or  food, and are often doused with cold water.  They are the victims of physical abuse from the time of their arrest in cases of flagrante delicto offenses, through the time of their detention.  Police frequently round up individuals in the community based on the way there are dressed, or while they are in large groups that resemble gangs while inhabiting street corners – even if they have not committed a crime.  Such arbitrary arrests are in violation of laws regarding the development of personal freedom of movement, enshrined in the Colombian Constitution which has been in force since 1991.  Arbitrary arrests present a permanent risk to the protection of the right to liberty, the presumption of innocence, due process, and the presumption of good faith.

The Innovation:  Adriana’s JusticeMakers Project provided legal services to young victims of arbitrary detention in the city of Medellín, specifically prioritizing communes one and two of the Northeast Section of the city, providing support to victims of arbitrary arrest from the first stage of their arrest, to the completion of prosecution, ensuring that all administrative requirements are met.  Adriana documented each case and published information on a blog, in an effort to increase transparency regarding the existence of abuse by police and such issues affecting the youth of Medellín.

Along with providing direct legal representation, Adriana conducted trainings for criminal defense lawyers, focusing on improving integral legal skills, while simultaneously developing a training manual to inform youth of their rights and encouraging them to demand them in the case of an arrest or judicial accusation.  Through her project, Adriana enabled access to justice for young victims of administrative detention, increased the skills of criminal defense lawyers in her community, and made visible to the national and international community – abuses that were perpetuated by the police.  The intention being to change the tactics taken by police, to reduce acts of torture and inhumane treatment upon arrest and detention, and to ensure respect for the dignity of citizens in Medellín and throughout Colombia, partnering with the Medellín Youth Network Corporation, Law School Clinic Programs and volunteer lawyers for the implementation of her project.