Against the wall: assassinations of human rights defenders increased in Colombia in 2016

Justice For Colombia News | on: Friday, 24 February 2017

According to the latest report from the human rights observatory Somos Defensores (We are Defenders), assassinations of human rights defenders increased in Colombia in 2016. The report details that a total of 80 human rights activists—including community leaders, trade unionists, peasant farmer, Afro-Colombian and indigenous activists— were killed last year and there were a further 49 assassination attempts; an increase of 22% and 29% respectively in comparison with 2015.

This figure is much higher than the 64 killings stated by the UN human rights office but conservative in comparison with other social and political organisations, who have reported up to 125 cases. The report highlights the worrying lack of official figures for these crimes, the government's refusal to recognise the systematic nature of these killings and the its failure to protect civil society activists as the country attempts to bring an end to an armed conflict that has lasted more than half a century.

The report states that paramilitary groups are responsible for the majority of these crimes, 55% of the killings and 66% of threats and attacks, which contradicts the Colombian government's denial of the existence of paramilitary organisations in the country. The most common perpetrators after paramilitaries and unidentified armed actors were the Colombian armed forces, particularly the anti-riot police ESMAD.

The full report in Spanish can be accessed here.

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