The dried up bed of the Arroyo Bruno below the diversion, July 2019

Legal Clinic research to protect the rights of a river

Indigenous communities threatened by climate change in Colombia had successfully argued in court that a British owned coal mining company should not divert their water supply, without further investigations. But the Cerrejon mining company went ahead with the diversion and the river dried up. So three UK based NGOs, AB Colombia, the Colombian Caravana and London Mining Network (LMN) asked the Clinic to step in with urgent legal help.

Supervising solicitor Sue Willman and Legal Clinic students provided background research assistance for barristers to draft a third party legal intervention, to assist the Colombian court, by giving an independent analysis of international human rights and environmental law principles.

The Clinic team researched indigenous people’s rights to rights to water, food sovereignty, cultural rights and health. The intervention links these to novel ‘rights of nature’ legal arguments re the right to a healthy environment (as an autonomous right), protecting its components, such as rivers and forests, as legal interests in themselves, even in the absence of a risk of harm to human beings.

The students working on the case included doctoral candidates Clara María López and Laura Knöpfel. Laura said, “Our research revealed the many promising answers which international environmental, human rights and indigenous law can provide on the question of corporate responsibility of multinational enterprises”.

The intervention was drafted by Jelia Sane and Keina Yoshida of Doughty Street Chambers and Camila Zapata Besso of Garden Court Chambers on behalf of two London-based NGOs, ABColombia and the Colombian Caravana and translated by Laura Alejandra Chaparro of Colombia Solidarity Campaign with technical assistance from Diana Salazar. It was filed on 26 August 2020 in the Court of Execution of Penalties and Security Measures,no, 20, Bogotá, Colombia.

King’s Legal Clinic

King’s Legal Clinic is a free service offering legal advice from law students at King’s. Students work under the supervision of qualified lawyers on a range of problems. A specialist Human Rights and Environment Clinic and an Intellectual Property Clinic are launching in the autumn term. Visit the King’s Legal Clinic webpages for more information.

Sue Willman

Assistant Director of King’s Legal Clinic and Lecturer in Law (Education)
Member of the Climate Law and Governance Centre at King’s

Sue Willman and Diana Salazar are trustees of London Mining Network

Intervention to protect Arroyo Bruno

This post appeared on the website of the Colombian Caravana on 27 August 2020

Colombian Caravana and ABColombia today have filed an Amicus Curiae before the Court of Execution of Penalties and Security Measures number 20 of Bogotá, in the process of the enforcement of the second, fourth, fifth and eighth orders of the ruling SU-698 of 2017 by the Constitutional Court. Members of the Wayúu indigenous communities of Paradero and La Gran Parada have promoted a process of protection of constitutional rights (Acción de Tutela) against Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, the National Environmental Licensing Authority, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and others.

The purpose of this amicus is to serve as an input for decision making regarding the verification of effective compliance with the verdict issued in favor of the rights to water, food sovereignty, and health of the communities involved, rights that must be protected.

ABC Colombia and the Colombian Caravana have instructed this amicus (by way of Sue Willman, senior partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn and Chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England & Wales) three barristers who are members of the Bar of England & Wales. Jelia Sane is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers (London) specialising in international human rights law. Dr Keina Yoshida is barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and a research officer at London School of Economics. Camila Zapata Besso is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers (London) specialising in international human rights law.

This amicus curiae has also relied on the research of members of the King’s Legal Clinic at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, University of London, UK, including the doctoral candidate Clara María López who is supervised by the Assistant Director of the Legal Clinic, Sue Willman. Technical and other assistance has been provided by the charity London Mining Network.

The Arroyo Bruno above the diversion, July 2019

The Colombian Caravana is a UK-registered charity that co-organises the International Caravana of Jurists. During biennial visits since 2008, including during the most recent visit in September 2018, the Colombian Caravana has called upon the Colombian government to protect the ability of lawyers and human rights defenders to represent their clients, and to refrain from any interference with their work, in order to comply with both Colombian and international law. For further information or interviews, please contact or visit

ABColombia is the advocacy project of a group of five leading UK and Irish organisations with programmes in Colombia: CAFOD, Christian Aid UKI, Oxfam GB, SCIAF and Trócaire. Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International (PBI) are observers. ABColombia have a long trajectory working in Colombia since 1997. For further information, please visit

Doughty Street Chambers is a set of internationally renowned barristers with a reputation for excellence specialise in many areas of law across multiple jurisdictions, often in cases which have a strong emphasis on human rights and civil liberties, and offer our clients a commitment to hard work and an innovative, multi-disciplinary approach.For further information or interviews, please visit

Garden Court Chambers is a number one ranked barristers’ chambers with multidisciplinary expertise which is committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law at the domestic and international level. For further information or interviews, please visit

King’s Legal Clinic will launch its new Human Rights and Environment Legal Clinic and Intellectual Property Legal Clinic in the autumn terms.

Deighton Pierce Glynn is one of the most highly regarded civil rights and judicial review litigation firms in the UK. For further information, please visit

London Mining Network support communities harmed by London-based mining companies. For further information, please visit

New diverted course of the Arroy Bruno, July 2019