HRW Calls on Santos Government to ‘Redouble Efforts to Protect Rights Defenders and Investigate Killings of Activists’ (E)
The Colombian government should redouble its efforts to protect rights defenders and community activists and to investigate killings of activists in the country, Human Rights Watch said today.
“The peace process poses an invaluable opportunity to reinstate the rule of law in areas long battered by violence and abuses,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But peace and rights are unlikely to flourish if abuses dissuade rights defenders from playing their indispensable role.”
“Numerous abuses against rights activists have been committed in areas where FARC used to have military presence. As FARC demobilizes, crime and activities by other armed groups have surged in many of these areas, especially where illegal mining and drug trafficking are profitable. Among the municipalities that had FARC presence and with high levels of abuses against activists are Tumaco, in Nariño; El Tambo, in Cauca; and El Bagre, in Antioquia. According to the office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Colombia, more than 60 percent of the killings they reported took place in areas where FARC previously had a military presence. On March 3, Colombia’s human rights ombudsman said that the access by other armed groups to territories formerly controlled by FARC has exposed rights activists to abuses.
Somos Defensores and the office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Colombia report that most of the killings appear to have been committed by paramilitary successor groups, some of which emerged after a flawed demobilization process of paramilitary death squads a decade ago. However, delays in investigating some cases have meant persistent uncertainty about who the killers are. While the Attorney General’s Office made significant progress in 2016, achieving four convictions on cases involving activists killed that year, no one has been charged for most of such killings in 2016 and 2015.
“The only way to ensure that rights activists are not dissuaded from carrying out their key role in securing a just and durable peace in Colombia is to ensure that these cases are thoroughly investigated and that the killers are brought to justice,” Vivanco said. Human Rights Watch.