Colombia human rights update June 2022

The month of June saw further violence directed against civil society activists and communities such as Cauca, Chocó, Antioquia and Arauca. The worst affected zones are those historically high levels of conflict and state abandonment. By the end of June, there had been 92 murders of social activists and 48 massacres committed since the start of 2022. Security forces have also been implicated in human rights violations.

Here is JFC’s summary of human rights abuses in June 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 June – The 45th massacre of 2022 killed three people in the Zona Bananera in northern Colombia’s Magdalena region. Armed assailants entered a home and attacked the people inside, with another person found dead around 100 metres away. The victims were identified as José Romero Polo, who was 42 years old, Brayan Castillo Polo, 24, and 22-year-old Andrés Orozco Villa, with a fourth person injured. The National Ombudsman has issued a warning for the Zona Bananera.

2 June – A court in Cucutá, a city on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, ordered General Omar Sepúlveda to issue a correction and apology to the Peasant Farmers’ Association of Catatumbo (ACAMCAT) over false claims he made last October that the organisation was involved in drugs trafficking and had abducted 180 military personnel. The court said he had 48 hours to comply with the order. Several members of ASCAMCAT have been killed in recent years, while it has worked closely with Justice for Colombia.

2 June – New findings by the Temblores NGO, which monitors police human rights abuses, said it had registered 161 cases so far in 2022, with 44 per cent of those committed in Bogota (72 cases). According to a spokesperson, 22 of the Bogota cases involved violations in the context of social protest, including against students during college protests over sexual assault. ‘The use of force does not differentiate when it occurs in situations where there are underage people,’ the spokesperson said. They also expressed concern that four people have suffered eye injuries due to police violence: ‘In addition to being an injury to the face, it produces several consequences that end up causing stigmatisation towards these people, which can affect their chances of getting a job, their studies or their personal life.’

2 June – Social leader Harold Vicente Herazo Castaño was murdered in Planeta Rica, Córdoba, where he was community council president in the district of Tapa Sola. He was the brother of former mayoral candidate Roger Erazo Castaño, who was also previously murdered. The 63-year-old was taken from his home by armed men at around 9pm and subsequently killed close to the road leading to neighbouring Montería.

6 June – Peasant activist Jose Ernesto Cuetia Yajue was murdered outside a public establishment in Florida, Valle del Cauca. He practiced traditional medicine and belonged to the Sonrisa Vida Sin Fronteras organisation which works with disadvantaged local communities.

7 June – One of western Colombia’s best-known human rights activists, Jesusita Moreno, aka Doña Tuta, was murdered in Cali. Armed assailants shot her in front of her family as they celebrated the birthday of one of her children. She had gone to Cali three weeks earlier for medical treatment and had continued her political organising from the city. 60-year-old Jesusita was an African-Colombian community leader in the San Juan River zone of Chocó, which is among Colombia’s poorest and most conflict-affected regions. She worked to tackle the regional impact of violence on local populations and had been working on developing a refuge for victims of forced displacement, the number of whom have greatly increased in Chocó in the past year. She was also renowned for being prepared to directly face armed groups over addressing the rights of communities.

7 June – Five teachers were injured in an attack in El Charco, Nariño, as they attended a rally to call for the release of the town’s former mayor, Jesús David Ureña, who was abducted on 24 April. Reports said an armed assailant opened fire at the rally without warning. The injured victims are employed at the Río Tapaje Education Institute, with four of them being named as Michael Paz Estupiñan, 35 years old, Líder Ibarbo Caicedo, 34, Affre Luis Anchicó Solís, 49, and Carlos Edmundo Pachajoa Plazo, who is 69. The main teachers’ federation in Colombia, FECODE, expressed concern over insecurity facing teachers and called on authorities to launch an investigation. ‘We will condemn this not only before national organisations, but also international ones because the lives of the country’s teachers cannot continue to be put at risk,’ said FECODE president William Velandia.

8 June – Social activist Danilo de Jesús Madrid López was murdered in Tarazá, Antioquia, where he was community council president for the district of Doradas Altas. The 45-year-old’s body was discovered in his home with multiple gunshot wounds. Tarazá is subject to a warning from Colombia’s National Ombudsman over the presence of armed groups.

8 June – A prominent LGBTQ rights activist was murdered in Bogota. Óscar Parada Torres was killed in the Engativa neighbourhood, for which authorities had previously issued a warning over the potential for increased violence around election campaigning.

9 June – The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), the country’s largest indigenous body, issued an alert over the abduction of community leader Zenú Eder Espitia in the city of Montería, Córdoba.

9 June – Community activist Clara Isabel Samudio Perafán was killed at the college where she was employed as a security guard in Mercaderes, Cauca. She worked with peasant communities to access funding and resources. She was 34.

10 June – A bomb attack killed three people and injured four others in a rural area of Cartagena de Chairá, Caquetá. Reports said a ten-year-old boy was among the fatalities. According to the mayor of Cartagena de Chairá, Edilberto Molina Hernández, at around 10.30am an explosion targeted police but impacted numerous civilians who were passing by.

10 June – Reported fighting between paramilitaries and the army in the Cacarica zone of Chocó, one of the regions of Colombia worst affected by conflict and state abandonment, forced several civilians to flee their homes. The clashes included state forces conducting ‘operations by air and land.’ The Interchurch Commission of Justice and Paz, which works with JFC, said that ‘this type of situation occurs due to impunity and a lack of response by the government of President Duque … as well as a security policy that makes it impossible to build peace in these territories.’

10 June – Teacher trade unionist Julio César Ojeda was murdered in the town of Restrepo, Valle del Cauca, alongside another man who was accompanying him, José Gaviria. They were attacked as they left Julio’s workplace, the José Acevedo y Gómez Education Institute. Julio was human rights secretary at the Trade Union of Valle Education Workers (SUTEV) and president of his local community council. He had campaigned in support of the presidential candidacy of Gustavo Petro. In response to the killing, the Colombian teachers’ federation, FECODE, said ‘with indignation we see that, in Valle, attacks against the social and trade union movement, [including] stigmatisation, threats and murders, have deepened since last year’s social protests and the current presidential campaign.’ Teacher trade unionists face high levels of violence in Colombia, with over 35 killed since the start of 2018.

11 June – Social leader Siloe Steven Ospina received a death threat at his home in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city.

12 June – Social organisations in Valle del Cauca condemned the abduction of social activist Omar Delgado. At around 3.30pm, a group of armed men arrived by boat in the zone of Calle Larga, located in the port city of Buenaventura. They subsequently went to Omar’s home, where they bound him and left. He was released two days later.

13 June – The body of missing Misak indigenous leader Jesús Antonio Montano was found in Cauca. He had supported the presidential campaign of Federico Gutiérrez, appearing with the right-wing candidate during a regional rally. The 53-year-old went missing while returning to his home in Popayán on 5 June, having previously reported threats against him from alleged armed groups.

14 June – Armed men entered the San Andrés Hospital in Tumaco, Nariño, and killed two men who had been admitted with gunshot wounds the previous day. A third man who also arrived injured with the two victims had checked himself out before the attack took place.

14 June – The UNIPA indigenous organisation, which represents Awá indigenous communities in Nariño, warned that 480 families had been forcibly displaced from their homes in the reservation of Inda Gucary due to fighting between rival armed groups. They were taking sanctuary at a local school but some people were continuing to receive threats.

18 June – Three men were killed in a massacre in Cartagena. Their bodies were found in the city’s Ciénaga Los Vásquez zone. It is the 47th massacre of 2022.

19 June – As millions of people went to the polls to vote in Colombia’s presidential election, two activists in the progressive Historic Pact coalition were killed in separate attacks in Cauca. Roberto Carlos Rivas Hernández, who was president of the community council for the neighbourhood of San Martín, was killed in Guapi, where he was acting as an electoral observer. Subsequently, Ersaín de Jesús Ramírez Ospina was murdered in the zone of El Bordo Patía, where he had been a councillor. The 60-year-old was attacked as he exercised at around 7am.

21 June – Two police officers were accused of severely beating a male minor in Valledupar, César. The victim’s cousin named one of the officers allegedly involved as Carlos Rada.

21 June – The 90th murder of a social activist so far this year was confirmed, with the killing of Jhon Jerson Camacho Barrera on 31 May in Tame, Arauca. Jhon belonged to the community council for the district of La Meseta. He was intercepted by armed assailants while driving on the road that connects Tame with the nearby town of Puerto San Salvador. The zone is subject to an Ombudsman alert about the presence of armed groups.

22 June – Indigenous activist Jeison Dizu Guetío was abducted from the community of Las Delicias, Cauca, and subsequently killed. Shortly afterwards, there was an exchange of gunfire between suspected armed groups. Cauca’s ACIN indigenous organisation issued an alert over the fighting the next day.

23 June – The wife of a well-known social activist was murdered in her shop in Puerto Jordán, Arauca. Adriana Ramírez Tavares was married to Pochi Pineda Ojeda, president of the community council in the district of La Libertad. Several armed groups are active in the area.

26 June – Human rights organisations denounced threats made against social activist Andrés Maiz in Cauca.

27 June – Environmental activist Julián David Ochoa was killed in an attack in Granada, Antioquia, in which his partner, with whom he had a four-month-old baby, and his father were both injured. Julián had campaigned extensively for the progressive Historic Pact coalition which won Colombia’s presidential election on 19 June.

27 June – Paramilitary group Comandos de la Frontera murdered a young peasant farmer and father-of-three, Frankly Alexander Parra, in Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo. The group also disabled a local internet antenna, cutting the community’s communication network.

27 June – Colombia’s dreadful record of violence against trade unionists continued with the killing of Leonardo Mora Calderón in Saravena, Arauca. Leonardo was vice-president of the ASA welders’ union based in the region. He was attacked while with friends in a restaurant.

28 June – The bodies of five young people, four of whom were indigenous and one African-Colombian, were found in the Bajo Baudó zone of Chocó, five days after they were reportedly abducted by members of an armed group. The victims were named as Luis Alberto Ismare, who was 22 years old, Albis Puchicama Barrigon, 25, brothers Jhonsy and Erofio Membache Carpio, who were 23 and 25 respectively, and José Antonio Hurtado Montaño.

29 June – An armed group was reported to have forcibly recruited three young people in the Morales zone of Cauca.

30 June – A Liberal Party politician, Carlos Alberto Hernández, was murdered in Arauquita, Arauca. He represented Arauca at regional level and belonged to various political councils.