Our new report Defenders of the Earth found that nearly four people were murdered every week in 2016 protecting their land and the natural world from industries like mining, logging and agribusiness. In Colombia, killings hit an all-time high, despite – or perhaps because – of the recently signed peace deal between the government and the guerrilla group, the FARC. Areas previously under guerrilla control are now eyed enviously by extractive companies and paramilitaries, while returning communities are attacked for reclaiming land stolen from them during half a century of conflict. Story on Global Witness. Download report.
Dozens of human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia by gangs fighting for spoils and control since the nation ended its decades-old civil war late last year, the United Nations said on Thursday, urging better protection for activists. Community leaders who speak out against rights abuses are targeted by armed groups, often involved in drug trafficking and illegal gold mining, who see the activism as a threat, it said. The armed groups are moving into former rebel strongholds, fighting for territory and resources, the U.N. said. Thomson Reuters
Not only did voters reject the original peace agreement, there has also been a significant increase in violence targeting left-wing activists and community leaders. Since the ratification of the final accord on November 29-30, 2016, right-wing paramilitaries and local drug gangs have assassinated twenty-four social leaders, and sixteen since the beginning of this year alone. The new wave of violence has even reached the streets of the country’s capital Bogotá, where recent bomb attacks targeting restaurants, protesters, and the police force try to undermine the legitimacy and validity of the peace process. Jacobin
Hanging over the country is the memory of another peace deal and another massacre 30 years ago. Around 3,000 members of the leftwing Unión Patriótica were murdered, effectively sinking that agreement and leaving a deep scar on the national psyche. [...]
“Ultimately the problem is one of time, and a question of who has more initiative. While the government forces are adapting to the new situation, armed groups are in an atmosphere conducive to growing their thriving illegal businesses,” the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation said.
“Either everything that sounds so good on paper must be put into practice, or it will be too late for many areas, where a new enemy is lurking.” The Guardian
The majority of killings occurred in areas previously controlled by the FARC. The withdrawal of the FARC has increased the risk of violence for the communities in those areas. Illegal economic activities have increased, state authorities are not protecting the local population and numerous armed groups are competing for territorial control. Violence in these areas is also being facilitated by poverty, marginalisation and a lack of opportunities. Justice for Colombia
In any other country this figure would be alarming and reprehensible in every way, but here Colombia, my country, we have grown to accept violence as natural to the point that 8 million seem not to make too much noise. On the contrary, we have inherited a culture of violence which has bred a regrettable systematicity of human rights violations. Here mere suspicion has resulted in thousands deaths of ordinary citizens who had nothing to do with anything. In Segovia, El Salado, Mapiripán, Bojayá, Tibú, Apartadó, Fundación, El Castillo -- all are evidences that in Colombia violence (which is often legitimized) precedes any attempt at compassion, tolerance or dialogue. Con la Oreja Roja
Social organizations have been surprised by their inability last year to schedule a single appointment with Deputy District Attorney Riveros to discuss their concerns; and about the refusal of prosecutor Martinez to recognize any 'systematicity' in these murders.
This may be the picture of the Attorney General's Office for the next three years, at a time when persecution, threats, and murders of social leaders and human rights defenders are becoming increasingly serious. Verdad Abierta
"We are concerned by the increasing number of reported killings of civil society figures and activists in Colombia. [..] victims appear to have been targeted for their role as human rights defenders, or because they are members of unions or political groups such as Marcha Patriotica, including Hernan Agames, Yanetin Calvache, Olmeido Pito Garcia, Aldemar Parra Garcia, Emilsen Manyoma, Joe Javier Rodallega and Juan de la Cruz Mosquera." Full Statement by Alan Duncan here