Colombia’s national Ombudsman’s Office has found that 311 civil society activists were murdered between 1 January 2016 and 30 June 2018, an average of one killing every three days. The most violent regions of the country are Cauca, Antioquia and Norte de Santander.
Many of the killings have occurred in territories heavily afflicted by the long-running armed conflict, which formally ended in November 2016 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. The FARC’s demobilisation created a power vacuum which the state has failed to fill, generating high presence of armed groups looking to assume control.
The majority of victims have been community organisers, indigenous or African-descendant community members, coca farmers, trade unionists, conflict victims and those working to implement the peace process. Campaign coordinators in the recent presidential campaign have also been targeted. In various cases, victims were murdered in their homes in front of their families, while in others they were abducted and later found dead.
According to the head of the Somos Defensores human rights organisation. Carlos Guevara, Colombia is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. ‘It seems that the institutions went silent after the elections and are watching from the front row how these social leaders and human rights defenders are being assassinated’, he said.
To protest the killings, on Friday 6 July Colombians all over the world held vigils in several major cities, including Bogota, Medellin, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Madrid.