According to ‘Chiaroscuro’, a new report by Somos Defensores (We are Defenders), a human rights defender was killed every 8 days in Colombia during 2011, a ‘year of contrasts’. Early in the year, the Colombian government created great expectations with its ‘tone of conciliation and inclusive political thought’. Later, a new package of institutional changes was introduced aimed at protecting social leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, unionists, victims and other persons at risk.
At the same time, however, human rights defenders reported that the level of attacks they suffered and repressive measures taken against them was worse than ever. On the one hand, defenders were pressing for implementation of the Victims’ and Citizens Security Laws, the restitution of land, the dismantling of the DAS, prosecutions of those responsible for illegal wiretapping, and limits to military jurisdiction. On the other, they confronted the ‘unstoppable advance of the mining locomotive ‘ and frequent stigmatisation by senior government officials. In the countryside, armed conflict worsened. The military offensive against guerrilla groups was met with rapid re-arming of these and the resulting clashes, officially described as ‘BACRIM’ —isolated violence by criminal gangs associated with drug trafficking.
Government officials attacked the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, accusing it of presenting ‘false victims’ during the trial of the Colombian State before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the 1997 massacre of Mapiripán, Meta, which was carried out by paramilitaries with the support of the Army.
The report gives names, place and dates of the assassination of 49 human rights defenders during the year, with 23 of them taking place in the provinces of Antioquia and Cauca. 19 of the dead were members of indigenous groups. Six other defenders were kidnapped and disappeared. There was a clear resurgence in the activity of paramilitary groups, compared with 2010. Many others defenders were threatened, by groups such as ‘Las Águilas Negras, Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños, Los Paisas, and United Self-defense Forces of Colombia. Right-wing paramilitaries account for 50% of the individual attacks during the year, with a further 17% attributed to ‘public forces’. Guerrilla groups account for only 4%, with 29% due to ‘parties unknown’.
Somos Defensores is supported by OXFAM, Amnesty International, Misereor, Diakonia (Sweden) and a host of other aid agencies.
Reade the report here