Unprecedented number of killings of Human Rights Defenders  

12 December 2016

Human Rights Defenders at Risk

Grave concerns have risen since the signing of the Peace Agreement for the safety of human rights defenders in Colombia

Although the Colombian Government and FARC should be congratualted for how they managed to maintain the ceasefire after the plebiscite (referendum) voted "No" to the Peace Agreement and then effectively handled a renegotiation and managed to obtain Congress' approval for a new Peace Accord (1 December 2016), the situation for human rights defenders (HRDs), especially for those promoting peace in their territories is very worrying.

In the first 11 months of 2016, 71 HRDs have been killed. According to the NGO Somos Defensores this number adds 7 more to the number of defenders killed last year and more than 15 if compared to 2014. 75% of them lives and led their activities in rural areas.

Out of this list, 31 of the defenders were assasinated after the declaration of a ceasefire between the governent and the FARC on 26 August of 2016.

Map from the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Firm

While in the majority, of the identifiable, cases the killings of HRDs have been linked to Post-Demobilised Paramilitary Groups (referred by the Colombian Government as Criminal Gangs-BACRIM), and in a less proportion to the Army, in a large number of  cases they are classified "uknown author".

The Colombian Government’s Centre of Historic Memory express concerns as to whether this could be the beginning of a wave of violence similar to that which happened in the 1980s and early 1990s to the communist party-the Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica).  During that time, more than 3,000 members of this political party, which came into existance during a previous peace negotiation between the FARC and the government, were assasinated.

However, there is not a unique cause that can explain why all these leaders have been targeted. One of those assesinated this year was Erley Monroy, a social leader,  a member of the Marcha Patriotica, and leader of the Environmental Association of Peasant Farmers of the Losada Guayabero (Ascal-G) from the Macarena region who for more than twenty years had worked in the defence of environmental rights and lead local opposition to the oil concessions granted to petroleum companies in the area. He was killed the 18 November 2016.

ABColombia remains seriously concerned about the escalating levels of violence against human rights defenders, especially as they are the key actors in the consolidation of territorial and long-term peace in Colombia.

ABColombia calls on the UK as a member of UN Security Council and prime mover of UN Resolution 2261

  • To ensure that the void in this resolution is addressed and a human rights verification component is included. This human rights verification should be undertaken by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (OHCHR).

ABColombia also recommends that the following actions be taken:

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