Social leader José Herrera murdered in north Antioquia

On Thursday 22 March, the Colombian community leader and human rights defender José Herrera was found dead in the northern region of Antioquia, one of the zones most affected by violence since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016. He had been missing for two days. Already in 2018, five social leaders have been killed in the zone.

José was 37 years old and a coordinator for local voluntary crop substitution programmes that form a core element of the peace agreement. He was co-founder of the Peasant Farmer Association of Bajo Cauca (ASOBAC) and president of the Community Action Council of the village of La Meseta.

Since the peace agreement was signed, over 225 social leaders have been murdered in Colombia.

The murder of José occurred one week after organisations from north Antioquia held a press conference in the department capital of Medellin to denounce the high levels of insecurity for social leaders and human rights defenders in the region. The same organisations released a statement on 23 March, the day after José’s body was found.

According to the statement, the high presence of armed groups has generated a situation of high risk for those involved in social or political organising. In addition to the targeted killings, these armed groups are imposing forced displacement or confinement on regional communities, as well as extortion, intimidation and violence. The statement also said that since 2010, 163 social leaders have been murdered in Antioquia.