Washington, D.C., November 14th, 2018.- In the wake of Colombian President Iván Duque´s first 100 days in office, the postponement of the adoption of a public policy announced to protect the work of human rights defenders is alarming.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders. So far in 2018, the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (INDEPAZ) estimates that more than 200 people have died from this group and the numbers keep increasing. As a result, President Iván Duque signed on August 23 the "Pact for the life and protection of social leaders and human rights defenders (Pacto por la vida y la protección de los líderes sociales y personas defensoras de derechos humanos)" and indicated that a public policy would be implemented at the end of September to address the deaths of defenders. To date, the details of the plan have not been announced, nor has the design process been transparent.
Although this announcement stems from an acknowledgment of the difficult situation experienced by human rights defenders in the country, the delay in the adoption of the plan and lack of transparency throughout the process have generated several concerns. For this reason, we have sent a letter to the Executive office where we highlight several key points that, based on our expertise in international law, should guide the process of the design, implementation and evaluation of the policy.
These points highlight the need to develop an open and participatory process in order for the policy to addresses the reality of human rights defenders in Colombia. Likewise, throughout all its stages, the plan should reflect the diversity of human rights defenders in Colombia, and address the differentiated risks suffered by specific groups, among them women and land defenders. At the same time, a comprehensive strategy should be articulated to guarantee prevention, protection, investigation, and reparation mechanisms. Finally, all phenomena that impede the right to defend rights, including threats, should be identified and addressed.
It is extremely worrying that two years after the signing of the Peace Accords, those who protect the lives and rights of Colombians continue to face such high levels of violence. All those people who have provided a voice to those who live in a situation of greater vulnerability in Colombia have the right to live in peace and to develop their work without risking their lives. From CEJIL, we expect a response from the President that meets our demand for greater and better protections for those who defend human rights in Colombia. We also remain committed to supporting the work of defenders and civil society in improving the response of States to guarantee the right to defend rights.