One of the major accomplishments of the UMN - Antioquia Human Rights Law Partnership thus far has been the work done in regards to the joint clinical cases that both the Colombian universities and the University of Minnesota have been working on, in particular the ongoing case of La Picacha.
Within the country of Colombia, the state of Antioquia, and the city of Medellin, La Picacha is a very large river, which since 2011 has flooded annually, leaving the city residents of Medellin at great risk, particularly in the neighborhoods of Altarista, Belén, and Laureles-Estadio.
The cooperative clinical case undertaken by the partners included in the project aims to raise awareness to the problem occurring in the communities effected by the flooding, as well as object to a mandate court order, which will be explained in further detail later in this piece.
Known as "La Quebrada La Picacha" [roughly translating to the "Broken" La Picacha], the river flooding and subsequent inappropriate action taken by the Colombian government has violated their international responsibilities in the treaties that they are party to, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the International Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
On August 2, 2013, the Medellin Oral Administration Court Twenty-Four ordered the arrangement and advancement of "the evacuation of homes and infrastructure in general at high risk and the associated relocation and all measures it deems necessary...to effectively avert the imminent danger that threatens the inhabitants of the areas identified." However, this court decision was issued without any dialogue with the "inhabitants" of those high-risk areas. By excluding the community members from a negotiation, or even a conversation, the court decided that the best option for the people of Medellin would be to uproot them from their homes and relocate them to another region of the city. This decision has proven to be misguided, and has thus led to much resistance among the residents effected by the flooding.
Unfortunately, Medellin is heavily overrun by gangs, each of which controls separate regions of the city, and relocating a gang into a territory of another potential rival gang could even further endanger the lives of the inhabitants. Moreover, under international legal standards, the government must supply equal quality or better housing and access to education as was provided in a person's previous place of residence, making the task increasingly difficult for the Municipality of Medellin. However, despite the challenge this presents for Medellin, all of these things could have been remedied provided the city government had initially taken the proper technologically preventative measures against the flooding of La Picacha or had spoken with the residents of the affected areas.
Therefore, the clinics have taken up a popular action against the Municipality of Medellin, demanding that the government recognize the community's right to security and disaster prevention, the right to a healthy environment, the right to a balanced ecology, and the management and rational use of natural resources. When the clinical cases first brought the La Picacha issue to attention, there had already been a couple of solutions proposed. First, the construction of parallel roads to La Picacha was suggested, and second, the construction of a linear park alongside La Picacha. Neither of these proposed remedies, though not entirely sufficient to improve the situation, have manifested into any concrete action being taken. As of now, the only enacted remedy has been the case of forced evictions, and the people of Medellin have clearly objected to this option. Hopefully, the city residents and the government will soon sit down and collaborate on a possible solution to the continuous threat that is La Picacha. But until then, the clinical students of both the Colombian universities and the University of Minnesota will be working at increasing public awareness of the problem and letting the government know that their actions neither go unnoticed nor lack repercussions.
Written by Isabella Salomão Nascimento