Attacks against HRDs and journalists continue to increase

Association

As reported previously on the Monitor, the environment for human rights defenders in Colombia continues to be hostile and it has worsened over the last few months. Media outlet El Espectadorreported that according to the organisation Cumbre Agraria, 24 social leaders and human rights defenders were killed in June and early July 2018.

The report Todos los nombres, todos los rostros (All the Names All the Faces) presented recently by the Marcha Patriótica Movement, INDEPAZ (Institute of Studies for Development and Peace) and the Agrarian Movement documented 385 social leaders and human rights defenders assassinated between 1st January 2016 and 14th May 2018. 

Some of the cases reported in June and July 2018 are as follows:

During the first week of June, four social leaders were killed. On 2nd June 2018, Carlos Jimmy Prado Gallardo, a prominent Afro-Colombian activist in the department of Nariño was assassinated. According to reports, Prado received threats previously and was under protection by the authorities. In addition, Orlando Negrete, former president of the community assembly of Camu was killed while watching a football game. Unidentified men started shooting and hit Negrete several times. Julio Cesar Montalvo, an indigenous human rights defender, was also killed in Córdoba municipality.  Social leader Delmayro Reyes was killed in the department of Valle del Cuaca. Reports indicate that two men approached him and opened fire while he was walking with some students. 

On 23rd June 2018, Isaac Navarro Mora, president of the Community Action Board, was kidnapped allegedly by members of the ELN (National Liberation Army) rebel group and later killed. Héctor Santiago Anteliz was found riddled with bullets and abandoned by the side of a road in Teorama. That same day, local leaders Janer Alberto Correa Arboleda and Anderson Ortiz Pérez, were shot and killed by hitmen.

On 25th June 2018, José Garcia Oquendo, president of the Community Action Board was assassinated by hitmen in the Ituango region in Pascuitá, Antioquia. José was an outspoken advocate regarding violence against human rights defenders and farmers. 

On 29th June 2018, unknown perpetrators killed community leader Iván Lázaro while he was sleeping. Lazaro was a Community Action Board leader in Puerto Libertador municipality, Córdoba, known for his cultural, sports, and educational efforts in the community. 

On 5th July 2018, hitmen killed two members of the Emberá indigenous group leader Francisco Dovigama and Dario Dovigama, both members of the Caña Bravita Indigenous Council, in Orito, Putumayo. The Council was preparing a community consultation in relation to the work of an oil company in the community. 

Social leaders and human rights defenders were also subject to threats and attacks. On 6th June, human rights organisations in Putumayo denounced threats against social leader Yuri Quintero. Quintero is the founder of several social organisations including the Human Rights Network of Putumayo. Also on 6th June, Julián Andrés Gil Reyes, secretary of the social movement Congreso de los Pueblos (the People’s Congress), was detained in Bogotá as he was leaving the office of the organisation. Although details around his detention are not yet clear, social movements in Colombia claimed the detention is another move by the Colombian government to repress and silence social leaders, human rights defenders and advocates of peace.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement condemning the violence against defenders and stated: 

“Protecting defenders is especially important in a context like Colombia’s, where a peace agreement is being implemented to end a conflict that lasted decades.”

Expression

The environment for journalists in the country has become increasingly hostile. At least six journalists received threats over a period of six days. On 14th July 2018, Jineth Bedoya, editor of the newspaper El Tiempo, and journalists of the news website La Silla Vacía received a threatening pamphlet attributed to the right-wing paramilitary group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles). The pamphlet declared them "military targets". A few days later, on 15th July, columnist of the magazine Semana María Jimena Duzán, received threats via Twitter. 

On 16th July 2018, the news team of RCN Radio, editor Yolanda Ruiz and reporters Jorge Espinosa and Juan Pablo Latorre, received a threatening phone call from a person who said he belonged to the ELN (National Liberation Army). A few hours later, the ELN issued a statement, denying those actions. 

On 19th July 2018, Luis Carlos Vélez, director of the newscast of LA FM, said in a tweet that he had received threats onTwitter. The threatening message he shared said to "take care of your family".

Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP) expressed concern about the increase in the number of threats against journalists in Colombia. The organisation documented 89 threats during 2018.