The killing of Colombian human rights defenders (HRDs) continues unabatted.ABColombia learnt with grave concern of the killing of two more land-rights defenders, partners of the Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace – CIJP) and ABColombia member Christian Aid. Mario Castaño Bravo and Hernán Bedoya were killed on 26 November and 8 December 2017 respectively, they were working on land restitution. Both leaders belonged to “Communities Building Peace in the Territories” (CONPAZ), a network of 140 victims’ communities located in 14 departments of Colombia, also a partner of Christian Aid Ireland. There is evidence to show that many of those opposing land restitution are former paramilitaries or powerful landowning families who have benefited from local systemic corruption and rely on neo-paramilitary groups to obstruct the land claims processes. On 16 November 2017, Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, expressed his deep concern about the reported vacuums of authority in many areas of the country and the resultant insecurity for communities as other illegal groups move in to fill the void. Urgent prevention measures by the Colombian Government are therefore essential. Alongside the longer-term approach of dismantling the neo-paramilitary structures responsible for these crimes, as well as, investigating the relationship between third party economic interests and the attacks on HRDs working on land restitution. Without effective investigation and prosecution of the material and intellectual authors of attacks against HRDs, guarantees of non-repetition cannot be assured. Also, important in this context is a successful conclusion to the peace talks with the ELN. The peace process in Colombia has achieved important milestones in a short space of time, despite facing fierce opposition, however, a failure to tackle this wave of violence against HRDs could further weaken public support for the already fragile peace process.
We would therefore recommend that the Colombian Government:
- Implement rapidly and fully the Security Guarantees Chapter (Point 3.4) of the Peace Accord, designed to investigate, prosecute and dismantle the financial and political structures behind paramilitarism.
- Convene the High-Level instance of the Ethnic Chapter to analyse the situation and define strategic and preventive measures
- Immediately launch investigations into the killings of Mario Castaño Bravo and Hernán Bedoya, and prosecute the perpetrators and the intellectual authors of these crimes.
- Officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia.
Read ABColombia letter to Minister Coveney Irish Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.