Land Rights Leader Assassinated

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 2 April 2012

Manuel Ruiz

Manuel Ruiz

The MOVICE national victims’ movement has denounced the assassination on March 23rd of Manuel Ruiz, a land rights leader and claimant. Mr Ruiz was detained by paramilitaries as he took a bus home with his 15 year old son, Samir in Curvarado in the Choco region of Colombia. Their bodies were recovered later with signs of torture.

Mr Ruiz had been a victim of constant threats from landholders who now own land claimed by victims of displacement. Much of this land has been since been given over to the production of palm oil. Since 2005 more than 66 land rights activists have been killed in Colombia, nearly half of them in 2010-2011. Furthermore, according to MOVICE so far this year the number of threats against land rights organisers has risen “alarmingly.” MOVICE reports that despite various social organisations reporting the threat Mr Ruiz was under, no protection was provided by the State.

MOVICE notes that today there are paramilitaries across the country, in over 400 municipalities and that despite the vaunted Land and Victims’ law, the state has yet to confront or dismantle paramilitary organisations. Therefore MOVICE says that “the killing of Manuel Ruiz and his son are part of a systematic and generalised policy against land claimants and victims.”

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Terry Morel, more than 1,400 displaced people have been killed since 2007, and of every 200 reports of threats only 1 is investigated.

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