Colombia human rights update September 2020

Colombia’s human rights crisis has continued to claim lives throughout September, with authorities seemingly unable or unwilling to tackle the violence. At least 14 massacres were committed this month alone. Indigenous, rural leaders and FARC former guerrillas continue being routinely targeted.

Security forces have also been implicated in several shocking cases of human rights violations, including the police killing of Javier Ordóñez in Bogota which sparked widespread protests that saw further police brutality which killed up to 13 more people.

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 September – Social leader Franklin Velásquez was murdered in San Miguel in the southern region of Putumayo. Armed men reportedly entered his home and shot him five times. Franklin was a grassroots activist for the Democratic Pole party and in family welfare programmes.  

3 September – Four people are found dead in Buesaco, department of Nariño, southern Colombia. The region has seen several killings and massacres in recent weeks. 

4 September – Colombia suffers its 51st massacre of 2020, and second in 24 hours, when three men are found with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the head in the Seguengue zone of Cauca. The bodies were left by the road connecting Cajibío and El Tambo. 

4 September – At least one state security agent opened fire at Nasa indigenous peasant farmers protesting over ongoing forced eradication of coca crops in Putumayo. The attack occurred in the Nasa Pkid Kiwe Guayabales community after a helicopter disembarked 25 agents who proceeded to detain and assault at least one protester, Jhon Fredy Dagua, before conducting chemical spraying with glyphosate. Another community member, Alexander Quiguanas Baicue, was injured after agents shot him with a teargas projectile. 

5 September – Motorbike taxi driver Segundo Ramírez was reportedly shot dead by members of the Comandos de la Frontera paramilitary group in Puerto Asís in Putumayo. 

7 September – Colombia suffered the first of three massacres in one day, when four young people were killed, including reports of a child victim, in El Carmen in the northern region of Bolívar.  

7 September – Also in Bolívar, three people were killed, the attack taking place in the Simití zone.  

7 September – In the third massacre committed in just one day, five people were killed in Zaragoza, department of Antioquia. As with the areas of Bolívar where the others took place, the northern Antioquia region has been severely impacted by the presence of several armed groups.  

7 September – Further crimes were committed on the same day as the three massacres. Rural community leaders Gerardo Fernández and Francisco Javier Martínez were killed in San Juan de Arama in the region of Meta.  

8 September – In the evening, paramilitary group Comandos de la Frontera murdered Emerson Gómez Álvarez in Puerto Asís, just four days after killing Segundo Ramírez in the same area. 

9 September – Two brothers were murdered in the Bolívar zone of Cauca. The victims were named as peasant farmers Gerardo Antonio Ruiz and Hernan Ruiz. According to INDEPAZ, this takes the number of social activists murdered in Cauca this year to 70. 

9 September – Police killed 44-year-old lawyer Javier Ordóñez in Bogota, after tasering him repeatedly and placing him in a stranglehold as he was neutralised and pleading with them to stop. Witnesses said he was then taken to a police post and beaten further, subsequently dying in hospital. The attack was filmed and went viral in Colombia, sparking massive protests over police violence and state human rights abuses.  

9 and 10 September – Up to 13 people, including a number of teenagers, are reported dead and over 100 injured after a night of heavy protests and disturbances in Bogota and other Colombian cities in response to the police killing of Javier Ordóñez. Videos on social media showed police attacking non-violent protesters and appearing to fire live ammunition.  

10 September – FARC former guerrilla Jhon Jairo Dávila Aguirre was killed in Segovia, department of Antioquia. He sat on the community council in the community of Cañaveral Chicamoque. 

11 September – Indigenous leader Oliverio Conejo and his 22-year-old daughter Emily were murdered while driving to a traditional meeting in the Totoró zone of Cauca. Witnesses said their vehicle was intercepted by armed men on motorbikes who opened fire. Oliverio coordinated health programmes in the Totoroez community, where he had focused particularly protecting people from COVID-19 in recent months. The United Nations has previously warned of the situation facing communities in Cauca, where more than 100 indigenous leaders and activists have been murdered since the peace deal was signed in November 2016. 

11 September – Cristobal Ramos, the president of the community council of Villa Clemen, department of Córdoba, was murdered along with the driver of a taxi in which he was travelling. On the same day, another community leader, Yoni Valdés, survived an attack in San José de Uré.  

11 September – Rural activist Héctor Cuetia was shot dead while riding his motorbike in the Caloto zone of Cauca. He was also a member of the Community Council in nearby Huasano. 

12 September – Two members of the community council in Caño Claro, a village in the Meta region, were killed. Armed men arrived at the home of Ramón Enrique Montejo, who was president of the council, and killed him. Shortly afterwards, they killed Ramón’s predecessor as council president, Simón Ochoa, who was also a locally renowned folk singer. 

14 September – 24-year-old indigenous activist Luis Arley Chaguendo was murdered in the Suárez zone of Cauca. He had been shot multiple times. His friend Cristian Leonardo Sánchez, who was travelling with him at the time of the attack, was not seen alive again, with his body discovered on 27 September.  

15 September – Three miners were killed in an isolated area of Cáceres in the department of Antioquia. Armed groups operate illegal mining across the region.  

15 September – 12-year-old Arillanseil Salcedo Taicuz was left injured when police officers shot him in the face with a teargas cannister while conducting eradication operations of coca crops in the Puerto Asís zone of Putumayo. Reports said police were firing indiscriminately at assembled community members. 

17 September – Three people were killed in the Ocaña zone of Norte de Santander northeast Colombia. Police said the victims were in a public establishment when the attackers, without saying a word, opened fire on them. The victims were named as Saúl García Cárdenas, Haider José Santiago Ortega (29 years old) and Elmer Ortega (31). 

17 September – An attack in Taraza in the Bajo Cauca region claimed three lives, a small farm owner, his son and a worker. The zone is affected by a high paramilitary presence. 

17 September – African-Colombian community member Crispiano Ángulo survived after two men shot him in the abdomen in La Playita, a neighbourhood in the port city of Buenaventura. The attack occurred during an event organised by the Commission Justicia y Paz, which works with JFC, around sustainable agriculture and human rights. The victim runs a shop next to the specially-created humanitarian space where the event was being held. According to Justicia y Paz, police failed to respond to the attack, which allowed the perpetrators to escape.  

18 September – A 17-year-old girl was killed after the bus she was travelling on was attacked between Toribío and Caloto in Cauca. Reports said the bus was targeted in crossfire between the army and members of an armed group. Four people suffered injuries, Johan Andrés Medina (18), Alberto Darío Coicué (42), Jhein Geni Noscué (31) and Cheli Senovia (53). 

20 September – Seven people were killed in the Buenos Aires zone of Cauca, one of Colombia’s most violent regions. The attackers reportedly launched a grenade and opened fire at a group of people in a rural area, killing several and injuring numerous others. The victims were later named as Juan Manuel Mancilla, William Ibarra, Harrison Balanta, Kevin Caicedo, Víctor Caicedo, Juan Camilo Salinas and John Barrado Juanillo. All were young African-Colombians. 

20 September – Four people were killed in the second of two massacres committed in the same day. The attack took place in the Charco zone of Nariño, southwest Colombia, with three members of the same family believed to be among the victims. According to human rights organisation INDEPAZ, it is the twelfth massacre this month and the 61st in 2020. 

20 September – Indigenous community leader Alba Alexandra Pizanda Cuestas was shot dead after armed men intercepted her vehicle in Mallama, Nariño. 

21 September – A 16-year-old was murdered in the market plaza in El Mango, a village in the Argelia zone of Cauca, with two other people abducted by the perpetrators.  

22 September – FARC former guerrilla Nelson David Sánchez Segura was killed in Tumaco in Nariño. He is the 229th FARC member killed since the signing of the peace agreement.  

22 September – Colombia’s latest massacre was committed in Algeciras, department of Huila (the 62nd massacre in Colombia this year, and the second in Algeciras since July). Armed assailants killed 43-year-old Jimmy Betancourt and his 17-year-old son, Alejandro, in their home, as well as 18-year-old Camilo Rayo. 

22 September – Again, Colombia suffered separate massacres in the same day. In the village of Batatal, near San José de Uré in Bolívar, four people were killed including Santos Baltazar, an indigenous guard of the Zenú ethnic group. Several armed groups are active in the area, where hundreds of people have been displaced from their homes in the last three months.  

24 September – Soldiers shot dead an unarmed transgender woman, 38-year-old Juliana Giraldo, while she was travelling by car with her partner and two other people in the Miranda zone of Cauca. Witness reports said at least one soldier opened fire at the car in, hitting Juliana in the head. Mobile phone footage recorded by her partner, who was attempting to identify the soldiers, showed his distraught reaction. The military apologised via Twitter over the incident, while President Iván Duque said he had ordered a swift investigation. 

26 September – Three men were killed in an attack on a group of people in an apartment in Quibdó, the capital of the western Chocó region, the 63rd massacre of 2020. Police said the three dead men were believed to be members of an armed group known as Los Palmeños.  

26 September – Five people were killed and up to 40 abducted in fighting between armed groups in the Inda Sabaleta indigenous reservation in Nariño. Two people who had been injured were unable to receive aid due to the isolated location of the combat. Residents said those taken away were community members and did not belong to any armed group. 

26 September – Paramilitaries attempted to abduct a man in the Coredicito zone of Antioquia. They were prevented from doing so after other community members surrounded them and forced them to release the hostage. 

27 September – The 64th massacre of the year was committed in Soacha, near Bogota. The victims were two brothers and their brother-in-law.  

27 September – FARC member Cristian Sánchez, 26, was found dead in Suárez, Cauca, the 230th former guerrilla killed since the peace agreement was signed according to the FARC party. He had been missing since the 14 September attack which killed Luis Arley Chaguendo (see above).  

28 September – The president of the Community Council for Sabanitas in the region of Risaralda was murdered. Jorge Quintero was also a forest ranger and had denounced the destruction of protected environmental zones. He was attacked by at least two people, who opened fire as he was driving to his home, and died shortly afterwards in hospital.