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. 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.


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.