Protesters covered themselves in white sheets and lay outside the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Medellin to protest systemic murders of rights defenders.
Protesters covered themselves in white sheets and lay outside the Organization of American States (OAS) taking place in Medellin since Tuesday to demonstrate the increasing number of murders of rural leaders in Colombia, and OAS leadership contradicting state statistics.
Human rights organizations, Don’t Kill, Peace in the Streets, and Peace Generation, organized the performance protest Friday to demonstrate against Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who, during several speeches at the multinational, four-day event told attendees and the press that Colombian government figures show a 33 percent reduction in homicides, contradicting numbers from the state prosecutor's office.
Almagro added that Colombian murders are confined to four percent of the national territory, "which has left practically 95 percent of the country free of this scourge," said the OAS leader.
Since the peace accords between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, over 431 Indigenous and Campesino community leaders trying to maintain political power and control of land in their rural regions have been killed, according to the national prosecutor's office.
Justice for Colombia puts that number at 670 between January 2016 and May 2019.
According to the Ivan Duque administration, between January and May of this year, 22 rural leaders were murdered, while the prosecutor’s office registered 42 murders.
Top state prosecutor, Carlos Alfonso Negret, who participated in the Medellin meetings, criticized Secretary Almagro's position on the national murder rates.
"On two occasions (Almagro) and said there was a 33 percent drop in murder rates of Campesino leaders” said Negret, calling this statement a “mistake.”
Negret added that Almagro is continually dwells on Venezuela and Nicaragua as having a “crisis,” but doesn’t acknowledge the threat to human rights defenders being killed by paramilitaries in post-peace agreement Colombia.
Gustavo Gallon, president of the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) said Almagro has been misinformed by the Colombia government. "The truth is that the proportion of these deaths is extremely high and we can see that each week we have at least two rights defenders or leaders killed in Colombia, which amounts to 80 to 100 people a year since 2016 "
Diana Sanchez, director of We Are Defenders, which records attacks on human rights defenders, also disagreed with Secretary Almagro's statements.
"This is like a President Duque sound box. It is not true that homicides have gone down by 33 percent. … Threats against human rights defenders has also increased. (We Are Defenders) has at least 365 open cases, so we do not agree with the OAS secretary’s assessment of the situation," concluded Sanchez.
On Friday afternoon, at the closing of the 49th General Assembly of the OAS, the 35 member states issued ten resolutions that each should apply. One of them calls for states: "To condemn any act that impedes or hinders, directly or indirectly, the tasks carried out by human rights defenders in the Americas, including acts of reprisal."