Resolution on guarantees for the life of human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia

19/11/2019
Statement

FIDH, meeting in Taipei (Taiwan) from 21 to 25 October 2019 for its 40th Congress, wishes to express its concern over the attacks on human rights defenders, leaders and social leaders in Colombia and urges the Government of President Iván Duque Márquez to guarantee and protect their work.

CONSIDERING

• That the signing of the final peace agreement between the Government and the former FARC-EP guerrillas is a historic opportunity to overcome the armed conflict and its related causes such as political, economic and social exclusion, particularly of rural populations most affected by the conflict and where the presence of the State in fulfilling rights has been precarious.

• That despite significant progress, the current political landscape risks compliance with the Peace Agreement, while the violence against human rights defenders and former FARC-EP combatants who are in the process of being reintegrated and their families is getting worse.

• That since 24 November 2016, when the Peace Agreement was signed in June 2019, 591 social leaders and human rights defenders, 135 former FARC - EP guerrillas in the process of reintegration and 35 of their relatives have been killed.1

• That during the first year of President Iván Duque Márquez’s government, at least 212 social leaders and human rights defenders and 44 members of the FARC in the process of being reintegrated have been killed2

• That the attacks have been against community leaders, rural community defenders, Afro-descendant and indigenous people who are defending their territories, who are working to substitute illicit crops or to protect the environment.

• That where women defenders have been murdered, there has been an increase in brutality, as well as different risks, attacks on their children, threats, stigmatisation, sexual violence and feminicides and/or gender violence such as torture and sexual violence3, while defenders of the LGBT population face discriminatory language making them more vulnerable.

• That various human rights organisations have noted that these attacks have been concentrated in territories with high military presence or where legal and illegal extractive activities are carried out, actions carried out mainly through paramilitary structures that are tolerated or supported by agents of the state and sectors linked to large agribusiness projects and land concentration who oppose land restitution and comprehensive rural reform.

• That violations occur in a context of stigmatisation of the work carried out by human rights defenders, especially those living in rural areas characterised by the lack of adequate basic services, high levels of poverty, economies linked to illicit crops, with the presence of illegal armed structures and where the presence of the State prioritises military presence.

• That there are no significant advances in the investigations that will clarify, investigate and prosecute those responsible for the murders, attacks and multiple acts of violence committed against human rights defenders, leaders and social leaders.

• That the State’s response is insufficient and is limited to promoting a Timely Action Plan (PAO) which, instead of promoting the presence of civil institutions in the territories, strengthens military forces and weakens institutions created under the Peace Agreement such as the National Commission on Security Guarantees responsible for designing the policy on dismantling the paramilitary structures, the main perpetrators of attacks against defenders, as well as the collective protection decrees of the communities.

• That the situation is compounded by the stigmatisation of social protest by senior government officials, treating social protest as war through militarisation, the unjustified and disproportionate use of force and the refusal to comply with the protocol to guarantee the right to social protest.
The FIDH Congress urges the Colombian Government to:

- Build a public policy of guarantees to defend human rights, based on the need to demilitarise protection and ensure state intervention to guarantee the work of defending human rights.

- Enforce the measures included in the Final Peace Agreement, the collective protection programme for communities, security guarantees, the public policy to dismantle paramilitary groups through the National Commission on Security Guarantees, legislation for bringing these structures to justice with the participation of civil society and the policy against stigmatisation of defenders.

- Implement the comprehensive guarantee programme for women leaders and human rights defenders.

- Make progress in clarifying crimes against human rights defenders and members of the FARC party in the process of reintegration that includes the individualisation, capture, prosecution and condemnation of material and intellectual authors, and the identification of the patterns and structures behind the attacks.

- Guarantee and respect mobilisation and social protest and enact a statutory law in accordance with international standards and based on the proposals presented by civil society organisations.

- Comply with the recommendations of the international organisations for the protection of Human Rights, especially those issued by the Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders of the United Nations, Michael Forst.

Read more
statement