Colombia human rights update August 2022

High levels of violence continue impacting communities across Colombia, as paramilitaries and other armed groups remain active in many regions. The new government of Gustavo Petro has made confronting the human rights crisis an urgent priority.

Here is JFC’s summary of human rights abuses in August 2022.

N.B. This article does not claim to provide a definitive list of all human rights violations committed in Colombia. Various others are likely to have been committed during the period. 

1 August – Three men were killed in the 59th massacre of 2022. Cristian Andrés Caicedo Hoyos, who was 27, Diego Mauricio Majín, 45, and Apolinar Montero were abducted while driving in the Mercaderes zone of Cauca and subsequently killed.

1 August – A former FARC guerrilla, 34-year-old Wiston Antonio Mosquera, was murdered in Bello, Antioquia. He had been released from prison under amnesty terms of the 2016 peace agreement and was part of a productive project to provide support for former guerrillas with physical disabilities. He was attacked while waiting at a public bus stop. Several armed groups are active in the zone.

2 August – Rural leader José Luis Quiñones was murdered Tamalemeque, César. He belonged to the CISBCSC peasant association. He was involved in land claims for victims of displacement during the conflict. Armed assailants attacked him at his home.

4 August – Indigenous human rights defenders warned of the presence of armed groups in the town of Inza, Cauca, and said that local residents were at extreme risk.

5 August – Social media photographs showed a police officer giving a thumbs-up to the camera as he knelt on the neck of a young black man in Cali’s neighbourhood of Llano Verde. The AFRODES human rights organisation condemned the act of ‘racist police violence,’ adding that ‘we demand respect from the public force [police].’

5 August – Social activist Kedinyon Jeider Garcia Cañaveral was murdered in Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo, where he sat on the human rights committee for the Community Council in the district of Brisas del Yurilla.

6 August – Environmental defender Javier Usechi was killed in El Águila, Valle del Cauca. He had founded the Tatayamba Cultural and Social Collective, a community project to promote cultural exchange. The 42-year-old also worked closely with Embera indigenous communities.

6 August – Four people were killed in Colombia’s 60th massacre of 2022, carried out in Morales, Cauca. The bodies of two men and two women were found alongside a road next to the burned out vehicle in which they had been travelling. Reports said they had been intercepted and forced out of the vehicle before being killed.

6 August – Cauca’s third massacre in the first six days of August took place in the zone of El Tambo. The three young victims, identified as Camilo, Yeison and Juan, were killed as they returned home from a local market. Reports said all three were minors.

7 August – Two male relatives, both of whom were community leaders, were murdered in Ituango, Antioquia, during a family gathering. Armed assailants arrived at the home and killed Ferdi Leandro Tapias and Uber Eliécer Tapias Jaramillo. Uber was president of the Community Council in the village of Quebradoncita, while Ferdi was also a council member. Both men coordinated illegal crop substitution programmes under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement. Reports said their attackers belonged to the Gulf Clan paramilitary group.

7 August – A 19-year-old peasant farmer, Carlos Santiago Vallejos, was forcibly disappeared by police after they detained him without reason, according to a statement released by the National Agrarian Coordinator, which represents rural communities. Carlos had initially freed himself from the police but was subsequently recaptured. The organisation said there had been no sign of him since then.

12 August – Former FARC guerrilla Diomedes Bermúdez Aguirre was murdered in San Antonio, Tolima. It is the 338th such killing since the peace agreement was signed. Reports said he was intercepted by armed assailants and killed while travelling between the zones of Rovira and Tolda Blanca.

16 August – Community activist Luis Fernando Cuesta Lozano was murdered in Apartadó, Antioquia, where he had previously run for election to the council. The 28-year-old, who worked in a supermarket, was attacked in the Primero de Mayo neighbourhood. He is the 120th social activist murdered in 2022.

18 August – Armed assailants abducted rural activists and married couple Yuliana Liceth Galeano and Elmer Lenin Guerra, in the zones of Remedios, Antioquia. Elmer’s body was discovered a few hours later, while Yuliana was released. They had led a humanitarian mission earlier this month to encourage dialogue between rival armed groups in north Antioquia. Yuliana is secretary of the Community Council in the village of El Carmen and had recently met with regional authorities and foreign embassy representatives to highlight the abuses impacting communities. They were parents to a young daughter.

19 August – The bodies of three young men and one young woman were found in a 4×4 vehicle abandoned in north Bogota. They had been tortured and then shot. It is Colombia’s 64th massacre of 2022.

20 August – Human rights defender Elmer Castañeda was killed in Dosquebradas, Risalda. He had twice stood as an electoral candidate for the local council and helped coordinate other candidates’ platforms.

21 August – Three young men were found dead in El Bagre, Antioquia, after their families had reported them missing. The victims were named as 27-year-old Luis Yernei Ortiz Viloria, José Miguel López Mesa, who was 21, and Marco Antonio Gómez Muñoz, 20.

21 August – Former FARC guerrilla Alexander Betancourt Forero survived an assassination attempt in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca, where he belonged to COOMULNES, a cooperative set up under the terms of the peace agreement. In a statement, the cooperative said its members had been targeted as they attempted to transition to civilian society.

22 August – Social organisations denounced threats made against Luis Eduardo Gómez Pimienta, a former mayor in La Guajira, northern Colombia. He was a regional coordinator for the recent successful campaign of Gustavo Petro for the Colombian presidency. It comes after he received threatening messages from members of the AGC paramilitary group in June

22 August – African-Colombian councillor Roxana Mejia survived an assassination attempt in Valle del Cauca, after an armed assailant opened fire.

22 August – Soldiers reportedly shot 25-year-old community activist David Cortéz García as he returned home by motorbike at around 2am. He had been taken to hospital in Pasto where he was placed in intensive care.

24 August – The security detail of new president Gustavo Petro was attacked as it drove to the town of El Tarre, Norte de Santander, where he was due to give a speech and meet local communities. The bodyguards had arrived ahead of the president to assess the security situation when they came under fire from at least six assailants as they refused to stop at an illegal checkpoint. Two vehicles were disabled by the shots and one of the bodyguards was held before being released. The identity of the attackers was unclear. Nobody was injured.

24 August – Three people were killed at a home in the town of Buga, Valle del Cauca. They were identified as Fernando Leal Martínez, who was 45 years old, Celsi Elisa Miranda, 61, and a 35-year-old named Gustavo.

24 August – An organisation representing conflict victims in El Bagre, Antioquia, issued a warning over violence in the area and called on authorities to take urgent action to protect residents. It also called on armed groups to ensure respect for human rights under international law. The warning came three days after three young men were murdered in El Bagre.

25 August – Three bodies were found in plastic bags and with signs of torture in the Kennedy sector of Bogota. It is the latest in a wave of similar incidents lately in the capital.

26 August – Three community members belonging to the indigenous reservations Panán and Chiles were killed in Cumbal, Nariño. They were named as Adriana Guerrero Tarapuez, her husband Emilson Calpa Tupue and Diego Armando España. It is the 69th massacre of 2022, according to INDEPAZ. Adriana was a community police inspector.

27 August – The year’s 70th massacre was carried out in Cucutá, eastern Colombia, when armed assailants killed four men inside a mechanics’ workshop at around midday.

28 August – For the fifth consecutive day, Colombia witnessed a massacre. On this occasion, three people were killed in the northern city of Barranquilla. Assailants on a motorbike opened fire as the victims gathered outside a bar in the city’s Montes neighbourhood.

28 August – Two journalists, Dilia Contreras and Leiner Montero, were killed in Fundación, Magdalena. They were attacked while returning from covering community celebrations in the sector of Santa Rosa de Lima. Dilia worked at the independent outlets Impacto Stereo and La Bocina Col, while Leiner was director of another independent outlet, Sol Digital Stereo. On Twitter, President Gustavo Petro condemned the killings, emphasising that ‘the press must have guarantees to do its work.’

28 August – Yet another massacre, the 72nd of 2022, was committed, this time in Caldono, Cauca. Armed assailants murdered an 18-year-old before going to a nearby home and killing the first victim’s brother and cousin. All three were members of the reservation De San Lorenzo.

28 August – A third massacre was committed in just one day, as four men were killed in Valle del Guamuez, Putumayo. The victims were identified as Yobani Ortiz Cabezas, Bautista Ortiz, Manuel Anderson Villacorte Pascal and Jhon Fredy Villacorte Pascal. Two of them were of Awá indigenous heritage and had been abducted several days earlier.

28 August – Community leader Neiver Pertuz was murdered at his home in Remolino, Magdalena, where he campaigned for improved social conditions, including access to clean water.

28 August – An extremely violent day continued with the death of African-Colombian community leader Juan Quiñones Angulo in Magüi Payán, Nariño. He sat on the community council called ‘The Voice of Black People’ and campaigned to protect civilians from landmines and violence. He was caught in the crossfire and killed during fighting between rival armed groups. He is the 123rd social activist killed in 2022, with 14 of the killings committed in Nariño.