CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Colombia

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 15.03.2019 at 15:08

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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 At least 18 social leaders murdered in the first two months of 2019

At least 18 social leaders murdered in the first two months of 2019

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

Association

As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia remains hostile. During the first weeks of 2019 at least eighteen human rights defenders were killed in Colombia.  In addition, 347 attacks were registered during 2018 against human rights defenders, 43 percent were committed against indigenous peoples and afro-descendant groups.  

The situation is especially concerning in the Catatumbo region, and it prompted the United Nation’s representative to Colombia, Alberto Brunori, to increase capacity in the UN headquarters in order to provide better protection to human rights defenders in the region. 

The following is a summary of some of the cases reported recently: 

On 6th January 2019, woman human rights defender Maritza Quiroz was murdered in her home in San Isidro, Magdalena. She was the leader of the Victims Committee (Mesa de Víctimas) of Santa Marta and the leader of Afro- descendant women victims of enforced displacement in rural areas. 

On 12th January, an indigenous leader of the Awá community Leonardo Nastacuas Rodríguez was murdered at his home in Ricaurte, Nariño. This is the second confirmed killing committed against an Awá community member in 2019.

On 10th February 2019, social leader Jose Arquimedes Moreno was shot dead in Catatumbo region. According to reports, he was shot by two men on a motorcycle when he arrived at home. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 24th January 2019, hundreds of students took the streets in Bogotá to demand the dissolution of the ESMAD security forces (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios) which has a history of repressing peaceful demonstrations of the student movement.

The protest was going to take place on 17th January, but it was postponed to 24th January in respect of the victims of the bomb attack against General Santander Police Academy in the south of the capital in Bogota, which left at least 20 dead and dozens injured.

Expression

On 17th December 2018, 37-year-old journalist Víctor Diago Cardozo was murdered in the city of Rochacha, capital of La Guajira. According to reports, two hitmen in motorcycles shot Cardozo near his home.

The Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER) and International Federation of Journalists (FIP) condemned this murder and demanded Colombian authorities for a prompt investigation.

The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, (Freedom of Expression Foundation, FLIP) annual report, identified an increase in violence against the press in 2018. The number of attacks during the past year was the highest since the FLIP started monitoring the situation of freedom of expression. In 2018, the organisation documented 477 attacks against the press. 

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.