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  • Colombians protest against the murder of social leaders.

    Colombians protest against the murder of social leaders. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 March 2019 (18 hours 16 minutes ago)

The UN is concerned by the increase in massacres, the rise in killings of human rights defenders, and extraj udicial executions.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Ohchr) presented its annual 2018 report regarding the situation of human rights in Colombia on March 14, especially marked by a considerable increase in the homicide rate and in the number of massacres perpetrated throughout the country. 

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Colombia: Indigenous and Campesino Protesters Call for Human Rights

The report is based on direct observation by the entity concerning human rights violations between Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. Its representative in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, expressed his concern about three fundamental issues: the increase in the number of massacres, the rise in killings of social leaders and human rights defenders, as well as the increase in extrajudicial executions “false positives” linked with members of the public force.

The report warns that in 2018 the number of massacres increased by 164% with respect to 2017, from 11 to 29 cases. The majority of these killings occurred in Antioquia, Cauca, Northern Santander, and Caqueta. In the first three of these departments there was also a higher incidence of murders of human rights defenders.

In addition, according to data from the Police cited by the agency, 49.5% of the municipalities registered an increase in the homicide rate with respect to 2017. For example, in San Jose de Ure and Barrancas, located in the northeastern part of the country, the homicide rate grew 1,473% and 880%, respectively.

An worrisome aspect for the UN is the high number of killings (110) of human rights defenders, out of which 27% of the cases correspond to Indigenous or Afro-Colombian victims, which shows that “some ethnic communities are more affected than others.” 

Woman being treated after having been attacked by Esmad anti-riot forces | Photo: Alba Movement

As Colombian Indigenous and Campesino communities are being attacked, killed, persecuted and dispossessed, on March 11 the people of Cauca in southwestern Colombia began protesting in a collective action called "Minga". Their protest has been marked by violent repression from the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (Esmad) of the National Police. 

The report emphasizes that the structural causes related to the systematic killing of human right defenders and social leaders “derive to a large extent from the weak or null presence of the State in some rural areas… and the result of substantial delays in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, particularly in relation to comprehensive rural reform and the substitution of illicit crops.”

Regarding extrajudicial killings, the multilateral agency found 11 new cases of alleged “false positive” executions registered in Antioquia, Arauca, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, and Northern Santander. “National police would allegedly be responsible for six cases, and the
army of five”, the UN affirms adding that is concerned about “some aspects of Law 1922, especially article 11, paragraph 2, which contemplates the provisions that expressly prevent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to investigate the State agents, particularly the members of the public force.”

Finally, the UN Human Rights body focuses solely on the Peace Process, stating that President Ivan Duque will have the "historic responsibility to continue implementing the Agreement." As the Colombian defense budget increased by more than 5%, the Ohchr encourages the Duque’s government to prioritize public spending on prevention, since the UN’s Secretary General estimated that prevention measures could reduce costs generated by violence and conflicts by up to 30%. 


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