ASCAMCAT member murdered days after organisation denounces threats

Unknown attackers murdered a human rights activist and gravely injured his wife in their home in the Catatumbo region of northeast Colombia. The attack took place in the evening of Thursday 8 November in Tibú, one of the zones most seriously affected by ongoing political violence that has affected large parts of Colombia since the peace agreement was signed two years ago.

The murder victim, Luis Tarazona Salamanca, was a member of the ASCAMCAT rural organisation based in Catatumbo. ASCAMCAT members have been subject to high levels of risk, with at least four of its members murdered so far in 2018. Just last week, a statement by the Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor called for improved security for ASCAMCAT members in the face of persistent threats and attacks against them.

On Twitter, the United Nations Human Rights Office in Colombia said ‘we condemn the homicide of Luis Tarazona Salamanca, coordinator of the village committee of ASCAMCAT’.

In August, a JFC Peace Monitor delegation visited Tibú and met with ASCAMCAT members and local communities to hear about the crisis in the region. Catatumbo has been heavily affected by violence against social activists and ongoing conflict between different armed groups competing to control the region, which is on the border with Venezuela.

In the recent statement, the Peace Monitor delegates said that ‘[i]t is fundamental that the Colombian government, supported by the international community, takes the necessary steps to guarantee security for those people working to implement the peace agreement, particularly around voluntary substitution of illicit crops. We also reiterate our hope, as expressed in our earlier statement, that the new government of Iván Duque will continue the previous administration’s path towards a stable and lasting peace’.