Colombia human rights update February 2022

Colombia continued to see high levels of violence in many parts of the country throughout February 2022.

In the first two months of the year, according to the INDEPAZ human rights organisation, 33 social activists and six former FARC combatants were killed. Others were threatened or survived attacks. With elections scheduled in March, there are major concerns that violence will escalate. At the current rate, 2022 will see more social activists murdered than last year’s figure of 171.

Here is JFC’s monthly update of human rights abuses in Colombia.

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 February – Indigenous community leader Julio César Bravo was murdered in Güitungal, a village in the southern department of Nariño. He was council president in the Córdoba district and a leader in in the Males indigenous community. He also belonged to the Indigenous Authorities of Colombia (AICO) political party. According to INDEPAZ, he is the 1,301st social activist murdered since the signing of Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement and the 15th in 2022.

2 February – Social activist Hermán Naranjo Quintero was murdered in Tame in the eastern department of Arauca, where communities are facing a humanitarian crisis due to intense fighting between armed groups in recent weeks. He was a member of the community council in the Corocito district of Tame. After Hermán was abducted on 1 February, his wife, Edalid Carrillo, made a social media plea for his safe return. ‘We have nothing to do with this war, we are just workers. He has an illness, he suffers from diabetes. Please, I ask that you respect life,’ she said. Hermán’s body was found the next day.

2 February – The third murder of a community council member in the first two days of February was committed in Cabuyaro in the department of Meta. Juan Carlos Nieto Calvario was president of the community council for San Miguel de Guarupay. Four armed men arrived at his home and shot him dead.

2 February – The year’s 15th massacre was committed in Puerto Leguízamo in the southern region of Putumayo. The three victims included Efrén Ramos, who was the legal representative for a local community council.

3 February – The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), the largest indigenous body in the country, reported that police had attacked and injured an Embera boy, named as Elio Niasa, in Puerto Asís, Putumayo. Social media pictures showed Elio being attended to while bleeding heavily from his left arm.

4 February – Armed assailants murdered a community council president at his home in the village of Brucelas in Arauca. Victor Manuel Pacheco is the fifth community council member murdered in the first four days of February.

4 February – Three young indigenous men were killed in 2022’s 16th massacre, which was carried out across two days in El Tambo in Cauca. On 3 February, gunmen killed 24-year-old Samir Rosero and 17-year-old José Manuel Rosero, who both belonged to the Alto del Rey community. The following evening, the assailants attacked a vigil for the victims, killing indigenous guard Ovidio Alemeza Llanten.

5 February – Three members of the same family, including a minor, were killed in a massacre in Angostura, Antioquia.

5 February – Yet another massacre claimed the lives of three brothers in Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo. All three were peasant farmers identified as 25-year-old Aisten Jaguer García Pineda and his younger brothers, Reinel, who was 22, and Orlando, 18. It is already the 18th massacre of 2022.

6 February – Former FARC combatant Carlos Fernando Ramos Sánchez was murdered in Leticia in the southeast region of Amazonas. Also known as Nilson and father to a young daughter, he was shot dead while riding his motorbike. He had been based at the transition zone Oscar Mondragón in Miravalle, department of Caquetá. According to INDEPAZ, he is the fourth former combatant murdered in 2022.

7 February – Human rights groups warned of an attack in Bogota on human rights defender and environmental activist Amparo Tolaza. Reports said that four assailants in a red Renault Clio opened fire eight times at her vehicle as it dove through the Roma neighbourhood at around 10.30pm. Amparo arrived in Bogota nine years ago after paramilitary violence displaced her from her home in the Bolívar region. She has campaigned for victims’ rights as well as to oppose illegal mining and deforestation. While police said the incident was an attempted robbery, a government human rights spokesperson said that, due to Amparo’s profile, a targeted attack was also possible.

8 February – Human rights defender Alfamir Castillo received a death threat just minutes after attending a public event in which the military apologised for murdering her son in 2008. The threat was sent to the offices of women’s organisations in Valle del Cauca. ‘We invite you to the funeral of this leader who in life is called Alfamir Castillo,’ it read. Earlier, the army’s Third Brigade had apologised on behalf of the state for the murder of her son Darbey Mosquera Castillo, who was lured with a fake job offer and then killed along with another young man, Alex Ramírez, in 2008. The two were subsequently presented as dead criminals, one of the many thousands of cases of so-called ‘False Positives,’ the army’s systematic murder of civilians who were then framed as enemy combatants or criminals in order to boost military figures. Darbey’s murder is one of 104 cases linked to former general Mario Montoya, while seven soldiers were convicted of his killing and are now participating in the transitional justice system created in the 2016 peace agreement. Due to her campaigning for justice, Alfamir Castillo requires security and two years ago was forced to leave the country because of threats.

8 February – Wayuu indigenous leader José Silva Duarte was unhurt in an attack in the city of Riohacha in La Guajira, northern Colombia.

9 January – An armed group attacked the indigenous community Huila Rionegro in the department of Huila. At least one person was injured while a number of homes were damaged. Several people were forced to leave the area.

9 February – The body of Wounaan indigenous leader Luis Chamapuro Quiro was found in Medio San Juan in Chocó, western Colombia, six days after he was abducted by members of an armed group. Local witnesses reported that he was taken after refusing to pay a transit levy imposed by the group. INDEPAZ said he is the 21st social activist murdered in 2022.

10 February – At around 9pm, social activist Juan Carlos Jaramillo was shot dead while travelling by motorbike in Guacari, Valle del Cauca. He worked for the local municipality.

10 February – Community council leader Uladiemiro Vega García was murdered in Río de Oro, department of César. He was attacked in the evening while heading to his workplace.

10 February – Social organisation CNA Colombia reported that paramilitaries had abducted social activist Luis Alberto Tovar in Bajo Calima, Buenaventura, where he belongs to the community Nueva Esperanza Consejo Comunitario. According to CNA, which brings together rural movements for land reform and peasant rights, Luis was intercepted as he was piloting his small boat. The organisation said the state was responsible for the safety of the married father-of-three.

11 February – Three people were killed in a massacre in Remedios, Antioquia. Armed assailants arrived at a health retreat and attacked those inside, killing two and injuring at least two more, one of whom subsequently died in hospital. It is the 19th massacre of 2022.

12 February – The Memoria Viva trade union, which represents security personnel for, among others, social activists and those in the peace process, warned that police had attacked two of its members as they accompanied two former FARC combatants. Plain-clothes officers opened fire at the group in San Vicente del Caguán, Caquetá.

12 February – The former mayor of Sevilla, a town in Valle del Cauca, was killed there. Wilson Antonio Patiño was a member of the Liberal Party and had served as mayor from 1998 to 2000. He had been involved in processing candidates for the upcoming elections. He was shot in the morning close to the town’s central market plaza. He is the 24th social activist murdered in 2022.

13 February – The son of social activist Silver Polo Palomino was murdered at the family home in Ciénaga in the northern region of Magdalena. Two armed assailants arrived at the property, where one of them entered and shot Anthony Polo Arrieta before fleeing. Silver works with residents in local communities such as La Secreta, Siberia and Ciénaga.

13 February – Two people were abducted in separate incidents in Tame, Arauca. At around 9am, armed men took peasant farmer Claudio Armel Eregua Roa, a married father-of-two, from his workplace. Community members said he had never had any issues that could explain his abduction. Subsequently, a group of men kidnapped a teenage mother, Maira Umbarila, and her three-month-old baby. The National Ombudsman called on the abductors to respect Maira’s life. Fortunately, she and her child were released unharmed the following day. Authorities have registered more than 20 people kidnapped in Arauca since the start of the year.

17 February – Armed assailants attacked community leader William Espinoza Braga in Monserrate, Arauca. Although William survived, his son was killed while trying to defend him. William is president of the Monserrate community council.

18 February – Community activist Steven Loaiza was murdered outside his home in the city of Buenaventura. He belonged to the Buenaventura Merchants Association where he worked with residents in support of peace and better social conditions. He was also an organiser of a march against violence scheduled for 24 February. He is the 25th social activist murdered in 2022.

19 February – Mobile phone footage on social media showed police violently attempting to arrest a man who was bleeding profusely from a head wound, while other people tried to intervene in the arrest. According to voices heard in the video, the police had attacked the man and were unjustly seeking to remove him. The incident took place in Puerto Rondón, Arauca.

19 February – Indigenous community leader Saulo Moreno was murdered in Guachucal, Nariño. Armed assailants attacked him at his home at around 2pm.

20 February – Awá indigenous activist Bolívar Lavin Delgado Guevara was murdered in Tumaco, Nariño. He is the second member of the Pianulpí community based in the Piguambi Palangala reservation to be murdered this month, following the killing of Segundo Cortés Nastuacuas on 6 February (confirmed on 22 February). He had gone missing after leaving his home to go to community cultural activities and was later found dead.

21 February – A candidate for the Special Districts for Peace, the 16 congressional seats created in the 2016 peace agreement for representatives of victims and conflict-affected communities, was abducted in Fortul, Arauca. Guillermo Murcia is a member of the anti-landmine organisation ASODIGPAZ and community activist. He was released unharmed the next day.

21 February – Former FARC combatant Fabian Alexander Rodríguez Suárez was murdered in Valle del Guamuez, Putumayo. He was based at the formal transition zone in Puerto Asís. According to INDEPAZ, he is the 304th former combatant killed since entering the peace process. However, other sources, including Comunes (formerly the FARC party) politicians, said he was the 309th, a figure which corresponds with UN figures.

22 February – Human rights organisations confirmed the murder of Awá indigenous leader Segundo Cortés Nastuacuas, who belonged to the Pianulpí community in the Piguambi Palangala reservation. He had been abducted from his home on 6 February and subsequently found with gunshot wounds.

22 February – Two social activists, Teófilo Manuel Acuña and Jorge Tafur, were murdered in the Magdalena Medio region of northern Colombia. Both men were members of the CISBCSC social organisation. Jorge was a trade unionist in the ANUC rural workers association, while Teófilo also belonged to the Agrarian National Coordinator organisation which represents peasant farmers and campaigns for rural reform. They had opposed the destruction of marshlands and forests in the César and Magdalena regions. Armed assailants attacked the men in Teófilo’s home, with both their families present.

22 February – A well-known journalist, Julián Martínez, was attacked in Bogota when armed assailants opened fire at his car, causing his bodyguards to draw their weapons in response. Martínez has investigated high levels of corruption and recently reported on alleged vote-buying in the 2018 election.

24 February – Former FARC combatant Jorge Santofimio Yepes was murdered in Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo. The attack took place during a committee meeting in the offices of the Common Community Multiactive Cooperative (COMUCCON), created as a productive project for former combatants in the peace process. Four other people were injured. Jorge was a 38-year-old father of four, with two older brothers, at least one of whom is also a former FARC combatant, while the other was killed by the army some years ago. After joining the FARC as a teenager, Jorge had been deeply committed to the peace process, helping to coordinate voluntary crop substitution programmes under the terms of the agreement and co-founding COMUCCON, which focuses on environmental protection. Around 40 former combatants and their families live in the COMUCCON cooperative. Last August, in an interview with the El Espectador newspaper, Jorge said ‘We have always believed in peace. I will never return to arms, because here I have everything.’

24 February – Community activist Julio Victoria Cárdenas was murdered in Litoral San Juan in the western department of Chocó. He was a community council leader and activist in the ACADESAN peasant farmers association in the San Juan river zone. He is the 31st social activist murdered in 2022.

25 February – Indigenous activist Dilson Borja Domicó was murdered in Turbo, Antioquia. He was a member of the indigenous guard, a traditional protective role. He was attacked in his home at around 11am.

25 February – Social organisation Lxs Sin Techo (Those Without a Home) reported threats against one of its leaders, Andrés Maíz, a human rights defender based in Cauca. The organisation said that defence minister Diego Molano had falsely linked its members to the burning of government buildings during National Strike protests last year. It said that Cauca police had fuelled the accusations, encouraging aggression against Andrés. Lxs Sin Techo works to support victims of forced displacement and extreme poverty in the region. It said that the National Protection Unit, which provides security to threatened groups and individuals, had rejected a request for protective measures for Andrés despite the threats and smears he has been subjected to.

26 February – Community leader Gustavo Antonio Torres was murdered by a group of armed men who entered his home in Tibú, Norte de Santander. He had been forcibly displaced in 2017 and worked in sustainable community projects in the Caño Indio zone. He is the 33rd social activist killed so far in 2022.

28 February – Human rights defender and rural activist Carlos Morales survived an assassination attempt as he was walking with his wife and five-year-old son in the city of Barrancabermeja. Armed assailants on a motorbike shot at them several times before escaping. Social organisations reported that he was jailed under false charges in 2016.