- For defenders
- How can I help?
Human rights defenders in Colombia work in a continuously violent and unsafe environment. They are subjected to threats, intimidation, forced disappearances, physical assaults, torture, killings, illegal searches on their homes and offices and stigmatisation as a result of their activities in defence of human rights. The perpetrators of these human rights violations are frequently paramilitary groups many of whom have links to the Government and/or security services, or armed opposition groups. The continued frequent and severe threats and attacks against HRDs around the country contradict government claims of paramilitary demobilisation.
HRDs at risk in Colombia come from a broad range of different backgrounds, including: trade unionists, indigenous leaders, afro-colombian leaders, activists working with internally displaced persons and on land issues, women's rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, students and youth activists, church workers, LGBTI and HIV activists. Programa Somos Defensores (We are Defenders Programme), a non governmental initiative to protect HRDs in Colombia, reported a rising number of killings of human rights leaders, trade unionists, and community and church leaders accounting for 29 assassinations in the first semester of 2011. The NGO also reported that in the same period of time, one defender was attacked or threatened every 36 hours. In the first three months of 2012 Programa Somos Defensores recorded 64 different attacks that put a human rights defender's life at risk or prevented them from carrying out their legitimate human rights activities.
Since Juan Manuel Santos assumed the Presidency in 2010 there has been a changed discourse in relation to HRDs, most notably with the dismantling of the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad – DAS (Administrative Department of Security). However, little has changed in terms of a secure environment for HRDs, with reports of continued systematic attacks. Furthermore, some high-ranking officials, including the President, have continued to make public statements aimed at suggesting links between human rights defenders and guerilla groups. Not only do these statements aim to discredit the role of human rights defenders and their legitimate and peaceful work in the promotion and protection of human rights, but they put those HRDs at greater risk.
Impunity remains high for cases of attacks against HRDs and in order for the Government to demonstrate genuine support for improved security and protection of those defending human rights, the authorities must increase their efforts to fight impunity. Human rights defenders are often doubly targeted, by State and non-state actors, and as such are operating under severe risk. The level of impunity for attacks and threats against HRDs drew the attention of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights, who stated that “Most criminal investigations initiated by the Attorney General in cases where the victims were human rights defenders have had limited results. Furthermore, the Procurator General’s Office (Inspector General) has not obtained visible results in its disciplinary investigations, despite public commitments to make progress. Serious and urgent efforts are needed to clarify these cases and establish responsibilities.”
15 May 2013
22 March 2013
08 March 2013
27 February 2013
21 February 2013
28 January 2013
26 September 2012
19 February 2008
01 November 2007
Colombia: Threats against Ms Gloria Amparo Suárez and Ms Yolanda Becerra Vega, members of Popular Women's Organisation
Colombia: Break-in and robbery at offices of the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COSPACC)
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