CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Colombia

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 17.12.2018 at 12:52

Colombia-Overview

Violence is the main factor threatening the integrity of civic space in Colombia. The situation has evolved since 2011, as several agreements have been reached in the negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and peace talks are also starting with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s other remaining guerrilla force. Peace, however, has not yet been fully achieved.

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Wave of killing of human rights defenders continues

Wave of killing of human rights defenders continues

As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia remains hostile, and the wave of attacks continues unabated.

Association

As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia remains hostile. Our latest monitoring shows the wave of attacks continue unabated. In recent months, an alarming number of HRDs, environmental defenders and community and indigenous leaders have been subjected to threats and attacks, while some have been murdered. The following is a summary of some of the cases reported recently: 

On 25th August 2018, indigenous leader Florelia Canas was murdered. Canas was the founder of the Cabildo Indígena Nasa Nuevo Despertar. According to reports, she was killed by two hooded men who broke into her home. At the time of writing, it is not known who is behind the attack or the motives behind it. 

On 29th August 2018, Ernesto Tocobia Guaurabe of the Embera Chami community was murdered in Garrapatas. According to community members, the land where Ernesto lives is under dispute and it appears he was killed by people looking to take over the land.

On 6th October 2018, Jaime Rivera and his two sons, Jaime Reinel Rivera and Jeison Mauricio Rivera, were tortured and murdered at their residence. The family was involved in crop substitution program in Rodeo, Bolívar and led resistance movements against forced eradication of crops implemented by the military. Jaime was the substitution committee coordinator of the Coordinadora Nacional de Cultivadores de Coca, Amapola y Marihuana, (National Coordinator of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana, COCCAM). 

On 8th October 2018, social leader Ottos Valenzuela was found dead, having died as a result of gunshot wounds. Valenzuela was part of the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Sostenible de La Perla Amazónica, (Association for Sustainable Holistic Development of the Perla Amazónica, ADISPA) an environmental community organisation in the Colombian Amazon. He worked to promote one of the peace treaty’s programmes to replace illicit crops.

On 26th October 2018, women's rights activist Maria Caicedo Muñoz was found dead near the Rio Micay, Cauca region, after she was taken from her home by armed men. She was a member of the Comité de Mujeres de la Asociación de Mujeres Campesinas de Argelia

As of October 2018, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has registered at least 92 assassinations human rights leaders or members of vulnerable ethnic communities in the country. On 3rd October 2018, the Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados, (Displaced Afro-Colombians National Association, AFRODES) and the Instituto sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos, (Race, Equality and Human Rights Institute), participated in a public hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Activists condemned the assassinations, threats and forced displacement that Afro-descendants and indigenous defenders face.

Peaceful Assembly

University students took to the streets to demand an increase in the government budgets for public education. On 10th October 2018, around 450,000 students and professors from 32 public universities in Colombia participated in the National March in Defence of Higher Education, which was considered the first major mobilisation faced by the Government of the newly-elected Colombian President Ivan Duque. 

On 17th October 2018, for the second time, students of both public and private universities and professors marched in cities across Colombia. 

Expression

As reported by Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, (Freedom of Expression Foundation, FLIP) on 10th September 2018, Martha Delgado, a journalist from El Maracanazoo, received a pamphlet with threats by the drug trafficking and paramilitary organisation Águilas Negras. Threats were also addressed to journalists Guillermo Castro, from the media outlet El Turbión, as well as Omar Vera and Juan Manuel Arango, from El Clarín. 

In the pamphlet, Aguilas Negras accused the journalists of being guerrilla informants. According to the journalists, these threats come after an investigation regarding human rights violations in different regions of the country.

FLIP is concerned about the increasing number of cases of intimidation against journalists by Águilas Negras. Between 2016 and 2018, 15 cases have been reported, eight of them in 2018.

Association

There are no legal restrictions on the freedom of association in Colombia and the requirements to register and operate an organisation are easy to meet. However, there have been instances where organisations working on human rights issues reported greater difficulty obtaining or retaining legal status than other CSOs dedicated to less sensitive issues.

There are no legal restrictions on the freedom of association in Colombia and the requirements to register and operate an organisation are easy to meet. However, there have been instances where organisations working on human rights issues reported greater difficulty obtaining or retaining legal status than other CSOs dedicated to less sensitive issues. Aggression, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors are frequent, especially against human rights, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other advocacy CSOs. According to reports from a local organisation, 63 human rights defenders were killed in 2015; women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are at particular risk. The same organisation documented 682 cases of aggression against human rights defenders, a 9% increase compared to 2014.

Peaceful Assembly

In Colombia people protest frequently, and public meetings and demonstrations are typically allowed to proceed. Organisers of public gatherings in Colombia must give notice to the authorities 48 hours in advance.

In Colombia people protest frequently, and public meetings and demonstrations are typically allowed to proceed. Organisers of public gatherings in Colombia must give notice to the authorities 48 hours in advance. Full enjoyment of the right is undermined by a 2011 amendment of the Criminal Code, which allows for the imposition of steep fines and long prison sentences for the unauthorised obstruction of public roads or transportation infrastructure. Protestors complain of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators, especially in rural areas where peasant and indigenous actors tend to engage in much longer protests which often include roadblocks. For example, in 2013, 84 activists in the Rios Vivos Movement were arrested while peacefully demonstrating against a dam project.

Expression

Media ownership is highly concentrated, and a recent study shows that only three families own most of the media and capture 57% of the audience. Defamation is still considered a criminal offence, and self-censorship is common - especially in areas where the armed conflict is ongoing.

Media ownership is highly concentrated, and a recent study shows that only three families own most of the media and capture 57% of the audience. Defamation is still considered a criminal offence, and self-censorship is common - especially in areas where the armed conflict is ongoing. Concern regarding digital security recently increased when it was revealed that the government had purchased a surveillance software package. Attacks against the press are frequent by state and non-state actors. A local organisation reported 147 cases of aggression against journalists in 2015, a 39% increase since 2014. The most recent cases of threats followed by murder were those of the owner of a radio station and a radio reporter, who were killed in February and March 2015 respectively. Although there is a state-run Program for the Protection of Journalists, 75% of the journalists receiving some type of protection measures claim that they do not work properly.