26 September 2016
On September 26, 2016 ABColombia launched its latest report on “Self-protection mechanisms: Colombian rural defenders and communities” in Colombia. The Academic Conference was held in Javeriana University and it included the presence of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), Michel Forst. He expressed his concern that, despite the signing of a Peace Accord with the FARC, HRDs are still in great danger:
In spite of this devastating news, the Rapporteur also made it clear that is thanks to the constant efforts made by HRDs that there has been some improvement on the protection of HRDs around the world. According to the Special Rapporteur, Colombia is not the exception, and it has been a leading country in developing protection mechanism for HRDs.
He insists that defending human rights can be a very dangerous activity
and things are not getting any better. This situation becomes even more
difficult in a context of internal conflict where all the risks
exacerbate. He reaffirmed his commitment towards making States
accountable towards the protection of HRDs, and ensure that they create a
safe and enabling environment for the defence of human rights in
Colombia. See full speech [English] [Spanish unoficial translation]
The event also counted with a representative from the Colombian office
for the High Commissioner on Human Rights. He started his intervention
saying that since the beginning of their work back in 1997 they
addressed the difficulties faced by Human Rights Defenders in Colombia.
They encountered that people in rural areas needed urgent support and
protection as they were the ones living the armed conflict more closely
and had less access to institutions, public services and justice.
Nevertheless they also found out that they were the ones more willing to
promote human rights around the country.
In relation to their mandate, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
Office in Bogota asked the Colombian Government to elaborate and implement effective
plans to address the threats, risks and aggressions faced by HRDs, particularly
for those whose activities are in rural areas where they are
exposed to higher risks. See full speech [Spanish] [English]
Finally Sandra Lagos a woman HRD, delegate of the
Integral Development Association for a Sustainable Amazon (ADISPA in
Spanish), and representative organization of the ZRCPA (Campesino
Reserve Zone of the Amazonian Pearl) download full speech: [Spanish] [Unoficial English Translation]. Sandra expalined the dificulties for communities like hers in an internal conflict: " [t]he families and communities of the ZRCPA are not the exception, many of them being victims of forced displacements, threats, illegal settlements, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions ...victims of anti-personnel mines, stigmatisation or accusations by the military forces, who in their military doctrine consider rural people as auxiliaries, accomplices or part of the insurgency. This has resulted in the hostile treatment we’ve always received from them. This
situation became even more complex with the arrival oil companies in Putumayo  and where the
expansion of oil platforms has intensified the armed conflict.
The encounter finished by
highlighting the importance of the protection of HRDs especially with
the peacebuilding process that comes ahead. Because when HRDs are not
protected, not only their lives are in danger, but also the communities collective organisation and management of their collective territory and this leadership and collective organisation and support is what protectis the communties and their rights.
 Putumayo used be classified as the Colombian Amazon how ever it has now been re-classified as the entrance to the Amazon.