Officials criticise government inaction over killings of social activists

Colombia’s Ombudsman and Inspector General have both criticised the government of Iván Duque for what they say is inaction in the ongoing wave of violence against social activists and human rights defenders in the country. Several people have already been killed in the first few days of 2019.

In its most recent report on Colombia’s peace process, the United Nations said the number of victims could be as high as 450 since the peace agreement between the FARC and the government was signed in November 2016.

According to Ombudsman Carlos Alfonso Negret, nobody from the government has attended emergency missions to address the human rights catastrophe affecting large parts of the country. ‘In the 25 humanitarian missions I took part in, I haven’t met anyone but social leaders, Catholic and protestant churches, the people of the Organization of American States and the United Nations’, he said.

Inspector General Fernando Carrillo said the government has failed to fulfil security commitments signed last year. ‘It is unheard of and inadmissible that, despite the call of leaders in the regions, this bloodbath does not stop and that the 11 commitments of the Pact for Life and Protection of Social Leaders and Human Rights Defenders, signed last 23 August in Apartado, Antioquia, remain unfulfilled’, he said.

The most violent regions are those historically worst-affected by conflict, poverty and underdevelopment, such as Cauca, Antioquia, Nariño, Chocó and Norte de Santander. The FARC’s demobilisation has created power vacuums that armed groups now compete to fill. Victims include community organisers, indigenous and African-Colombian leaders, trade unionists, environmental activists and those working on the peace process.