Colombia's attorney general warns of 'systematic pattern' of violence against social leaders

Justice For Colombia News | on: Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Colombia is facing a systematic campaign of violence against social leaders, according to the country's attorney general Nestor Humberto Martinez.

'The origin has multiple causes, but we are already identifying a few concerning phenomena', he said. This is mainly due to 'eventual presence of what is left of the Self-Defense Units, who would be acting with some level of systematic pattern in a few regions', he added. Self-defence (autodefensa) groups is a common term applied to paramilitaries in Colombia.

The attorney general's warning of deliberate targeting of social leaders and political activists contradicts claims by the Colombian defence minister Luis Carlos Villegas that the high number of murders is a result of personal conflicts and disputes, rather than political motives.

According to Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli of the Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA) 'Minister Villegas’ remarks were not only insensitive and inaccurate, but a slap in the face to all Colombian activists who place their lives on the line every day to build peace and improve their country'.

The Colombian government has consistently denied there is a paramilitary persence in the country after former Uribe government in 2006 conducted a supposed demobilisation process with the largest paramilitary group in the country, the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). Since then, however, armed groups have continued targeting civilians, particularly those involvd in labour organisation, land activism and human rights.

There have been over 130 murders of social leaders since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, while around 30 demobilsied FARC guerrillas have also been killed. The vast majority of the killings have gone unpunished and exhibited the hallmarks of paramilitary violence.

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