Colombia must answer for the hundreds of social leaders murdered in the first half of the year

Washington, D.C. July 6th 2018.- From the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), we express our alarm on the grave situation that human rights defenders are facing in Colombia.

Just in 2018, 119 assassinations of social leaders have been registered . On Wednesday, the Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia denounced the fact that in Colombia an activist is killed every three days. These figures have become increasingly worrying as they indicate an overall increase from the number of defenders who were assassinated in 2017- –estimated between 106 and 119—, and indicate that there still have not been adequate public policies of prevention and protection implemented to guarantee that this group can exercise its work in a free, dignified, and safe way.

In light of the recent wave of violence against social leaders, we sent a letter last Friday to the Attorney General of Colombia,Néstor Humberto Martínez Neira, signaling the limitations of the recently adopted Directive No. 0002 that does not incorporate some of the relevant international standards to strengthen the response capacity of the state to protect and investigate crimes committed against human rights defenders. Since then more activists have died, including Ana Maria Cortes, a community leader of bajo Cauca and secretary of the municipal campaign of the presidential ex-candidate Gustavo Petro.

As we face this wave of assassinations, we reiterate our request to the Attorney General’s office to respond in an urgent and effective manner to the persecution of social leaders in Colombia. The public policies designed to protect the work of human rights defenders must address the impunity that is fueling the crisis within the country. In turn, there must be a monitoring process to analyze the effectiveness and transparency of the implementation of these processes. The threats that precede the aggressions against human rights defenders must also be addressed. One of the Achilles heels of the prevention of attacks against defenders is the impunity that prevails in most of these crimes and feeds the violence against them. In 2017, for example, 370 threats against social leaders were registered. It is imperative to address the lack of adequate investigations of threats to ensure the effective protection and promotion of the work of defenders.

Peace must be extended to all inhabitants of the country, but it must be extended in a particular way to all those people who are playing a fundamental role in building a new Colombia. From CEJIL, we signal that the Colombian state must pronounce itself against these assassinations. We demand comprehensive policies for the prevention and protection of human right defenders; and sanctions on the threats, aggressions, and assassination against them. Finally, we stand in solidarity with the collective mourning that will be held today in Colombia and internationally that jointly clamor: #They’reKillingUs.