109 Social Leaders Assassinated In Colombia In First 9 Months Of 2018

Above Photo: From Resumen-english.org

On December 6, human rights organizations denounced before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the high incidence of violence against social leaders, which in the first 9 months of 2018, claimed the lives of 109 people.

On top of this the organizations highlighted that in the first week of December three indigenous leaders of the Awá people, belonging to the organization Camawari, were assassinated.

Similarly, Diana Sanchez,  the director of Somos Defensores, warned that “since August 23 when the Plan of Action was signed in cases of those killed, by  the Duque government, there have been 67 murders of human rights defenders,” along with a total of 309 threats to social leaders in this year’s run.

The organizations pointed out that one of the factors that has increased the risk for social leaders “has been the tendency of the State to deny the threats exist,” referring to the insistence on not recognizing that paramilitary activity persists, nor the systematic nature of the murders, “hindering the advancement of justice”.

The investigations from the Prosecutors Office

Another situation denounced by the organizations is related to the actions of the Attorney General’s Office, where “there is a lack of transparency regarding what is included in a clarified fact or the investigative activity being carried out in the face of threats, attacks, among other aggressions against persons defending human rights”.

In an analysis of the attacks many included sexual violence against women human rights defenders that is not being recognized by the government. Similarly, the organizations pointed out that the public policies announced by the new government have not been coordinated with civil society organizations nor the conclusions being widely disseminated a fact that generates more impediments in the protection of those who see their survival threatened.

Faced with this difficult context, Marco Romero of the Consultancy for Human Rights Displacement  (CODHES) stated that “A society that does not protect its social leaders has very little chance of considering itself as a democracy. The important thing is to achieve an effective protection policy, so there must be a dialogue between the State and civil society”.

It is hoped that after the hearing, concrete measures will be established by the State that are focused on the creation of effective mechanisms for the protection of social leaders and human rights defenders, as well as progress in investigations of violent actions such as threats and murders.