Side event at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Human Rights Defenders

Report of the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur to Colombia

Geneva, 6 March 2020

Palace of the Nations, Room XXVII, 14.30h – 15:30h

Organisers of the side event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: Oidhaco, CCEEU, Alianza, Plataforma DESC, Colombian Commission of Jurists, ABColombia, PBI, Business and Human Rights Centre

The Pannelists:

  • Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
  • William Muñoz, Campesino Association of Bajo Cauca Antioqueño (ASOBAC), also representing the Human Rights Network of the Coordination of NGOs from Colombia, Europe, United States (CCEEU)
  • Angélica Ortiz, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu (Indigenous Peoples)
  • Ana María Rodríguez, Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), also representing the network of Colombian organisations the Alliance of Social and Related Organizations (ALIANZA)

They will be discussion the following issues:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders report and recommendations from his visit to Colombia
  • The intersectionality between the slow implementation of the Peace Accord, the persistence of the armed conflict in rural regions, the expansion of paramilitary groups, and the increase in violence against human rights defenders
  • The particular impacts suffered by women defenders, or defenders who belong to Afro-descendant, indigenous or peasant communities.
  • Making proposals for the implementation of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, follow-up and monitoring of these, and actions that can be taken by the international community.


Since signing the Peace Accord with the FARC-EP in November 2016, the number of attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia has continued to increase in number. During 2017, 106 killings of human rights defenders were registered, 155 in 2018, and preliminary data for 2019 indicates that at least 107 defenders have been killed.

The State’s response thus far has been insufficient to confront this phenomenon: there is a lack of effective prevention mechanisms, the protection mechanisms that exist are inadequate for addressing the magnitude of the violence that human rights defenders are experiencing, and the situation is compounded by most cases remaining in impunity.

Delays and obstacles to the implementation of the Peace Accord have resulted in intensifying the conflict in the rural areas. The Government is proposing to return to a model of security based on actions by the military forces for the protection of communities and defenders.

In this context, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, received an affirmative response from the Colombian Government to visit the country (the first official visit of a special procedure in almost eight years). The visit took place 20 November to 3 December 2018. Both rural and urban areas were visited: Bogotá, Cúcuta, Hacarí, Medellín, Apartadó, Santa Marta, Riohacha, Cali and Popayán.

His field visit report is being presented on 4 March 2020, to the Human Rights Council (document A/HRC/43/5 /Add.1). The report describes in detail the situation of violence faced by defenders, a balance is made of the capacities of the Colombian State to provide a safe and conducive environment for Colombian human rights defenders, and recommendations are made.