Professor Sara Chandler, Law DepartmentLSBU's Professor Sara Chandler has been actively defending human rights in Colombia for over a decade now
Her tireless work saw her named human rights worker of the year at the third annual Latin-UK Awards (LUKAS).
"Colombia is probably the most dangerous country in the world in which to defend human rights," says Professor Chandler. "I first became involved with Colombian human rights lawyers when I was asked by the Law Society International Department to act as an interpreter for a Colombian human rights lawyer. What I heard shocked me, and convinced me to do something to make a difference."
Human rights abuses
Professor Chandler is the Chair of the Colombia Caravana UK Lawyers Group, a group formed in 2008 at the invitation of human rights lawyers in Colombia. Its aim is to help Colombian lawyers and their clients when dealing with serious human rights abuses, and the group visits Colombia every two years.
"When we are in Colombia, we divide our delegates into groups so that we can visit as many regions as possible," explains Professor Chandler. "That's vital for regional lawyers who are often isolated. They receive death threats from para-military organisations and are attacked and even killed."
The work that Professor Chandler and the Caravana – now a registered charity – carry out has certainly helped her to achieve her ambition of 'making a difference'. Colombian lawyers say that the help and support the group has offered has literally saved lives.
"It's an honour to be nominated for a LUKAS human rights award," says Professor Chandler, "and I am humbled to have won it ahead of a strong list of finalists. My connection with lawyers from Latin America has been life-changing. The Colombian lawyers I have met are incredibly brave, facing death threats and even being shot at as they defend their clients.
Access to justice
"I am deeply passionate about justice and the defence of human rights and I intend to continue my work with the Law Society and Caravana to help people in other countries realise their human rights and achieve access to justice."