A total of 46 human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia during the first three months of the year, 26 more than in the same period in 2017, according to a report by Somos Defensores, or 'We're Defenders.'
“The trend identified in 2015 remains... regarding the increase of actions against the life and integrity of social leaders, evident in homicides and attacks,” says the Information System About Aggressions Against Human Rights Defenders (Siaddhh) report, by We're Defenders.
The report states that perpetrators for 35 of the murders are still unidentified, while four murders were committed by security forces, three by paramilitary groups, two by alleged FARC splinter groups and two by the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Twelve defenders were attacked, 66 threatened, six were victims of information theft, one is missing and other persecuted for their political activities. In total, human rights' defenders suffered 132 aggressions between January and March in 2018.
“Out of these 132 aggressions, 74 percent were against males and 26 against females. In relation to the same period last year, we registered a meaningful reduction of threats, arbitrary arrests and criminalization.”
Of the overall aggressions, 55 were committed by unknown people, 47 by paramilitary groups, seven by insurgent groups and five by security forces.
The country departments with the highest rates of human rights defenders murdered are Cauca (southwest), Antioquia (northeast) and the North of Santander, bordering Venezuela.
“We're also concerned about the Arauca (east) and Cordoba (north) departments, where the attacks against human rights defenders resurged in numbers previously unregistered,” says We're Defenders.
In the report, the NGO regretted that the Colombian government hasn't been able to develop “an effective formula to stop the surge of selective violence against social leaders and defenders, which is becoming lethal violence.”
The human rights organization watchdog reported that 106 social leaders and human rights activists murdered in Colombia just in 2017, and called the high rate of violent deaths “a pain in the neck” for the country's peace efforts.
The report states that in 2017 “a human rights defender was murdered in Colombia every three days.” Other reports give much higher figures.
“The increasing killings [of social leaders] are a response to two conflicts: the territorial and the resources ones, most of them using armed hitmen in regions where the FARC used to regulate social relations by imposing their authority,” said Camilo Gonzalez, director of the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz).
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) demanded Colombia to take “immediate measures” to protect human rights defenders and social leaders, due to the high rates of murders registered since 2016. Colombian President Juan Manual Santos said at least 160 activists have been murdered since 2016.