Wave of killing of human rights defenders continues

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.