Peace lagging behind: Failure to implement the Peace Agreement exacerbates the violence in the country

Press release
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Paris, Bogotá, 14 September 2020. The FIDH, “José Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR) and the Latin-American Institute for an Alternative Society and Law (ILSA) express their serious concern over the wave of violence and massacres in the last few weeks in Colombia. Failure to implement the Peace Agreement by the Duque Government, among other causes, exacerbates the violence in the country and makes it more visible in a pandemic context. These facts reflect multiple infringements of human rights, including the right to life, the right to physical safety and the right to dignity.

Accordingly, implementation of the Peace Agreements is an essential requirement to reduce the wave of violence and guarantee life and dignity, especially of people in a situation of vulnerability, human rights defenders, social leaders and peace signatories. The dismantling and deconstruction of paramilitary groups are some of the commitments of the Agreement and, to date, the government’s actions have been defective and insufficient.

There have recently been several massacres in the departments of Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Arauca, Antioquia, Norte de Santander and Bolívar, which have taken the lives of more than 40 people. Young people, members of indigenous communities and people of African descent and women and children are among the principal victims of these tragic events. Many of the people killed in these massacres were surviving victims of the armed conflict.

These events have re-victimised their families and reactivated situations of structural violence. So far in 2020, more than 40 massacres have occurred leaving more than 180 people killed [1] This represents a significant increase in comparison with 2019, when there were 36 massacres with 133 victims killed in the whole year. [2]

Added to this, the continuing murders of leaders, social leaders and people defending human rights, which, so far in 2020, have reached 205, and of 42 signatories to the Peace Agreements [3], sound alarms of an upsurge in and exacerbation of the violence in the country, and also the need for the international community to accompany and continue to monitor the implementation of this agreement. Since the Peace Agreements were signed, 971 social leaders have been murdered, of whom 681 belonged to peasant organisations (342), indigenous organisations (250), organisations of people of African descent (71), environmental organisations (6) and community organisations (79). [4]

Furthermore, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) has confirmed an increase in attacks on defenders and also a failure to overcome the structural causes that generate the violence against them, such as the persistence of stigmatisation, impunity and paramilitarism. We regret that Colombia is one of the countries where people defending the environment are being threatened and harassed whilst carrying out their work. , “Five countries that are deadly for defenders of the environment” DW (July 2020)

We must remember that no democratic society at peace is built on a basis of impunity. We consider that it is necessary that events should not occur as in the cases of extra-judicial executions where the dynamics of impunity persist and to date those responsible have not been investigated and the rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition of the victims are not assured.

In view of the above, the FIDH and its member organisations exhort the Colombian State to:
Conduct an immediate, independent, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the massacres that have occurred in the past weeks, guaranteeing the fight against impunity and the search for the truth.

Comply with the Agreements as regards comprehensive rural reform, development plans with a regional approach, guarantees for political participation, preservation of life, security and personal safety of social leaders, ex-combatants, people who have rejoined and their families, programmes of voluntary substitution of unlawful crops, and guarantees for social, economic and community reincorporation of ex-combatants. [5]

Put an end to any type of threat, attack and act of harassment, and ensure guarantees for all the people who defend human rights in Colombia.

The FIDH and its member organisations invite the Colombian State to fulfil its obligation to protect the Colombian people and urge the international community to perform a role of vigilance and observation so that the events that have occurred recently are clarified and those responsible are punished.

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