Three more massacres in 24-hour period sees total rise to 44 this year

The violence engulfing many regions of Colombia continues to intensify. On 17 August, following three attacks which killed 16 young people, the United Nations warned that Colombia had already seen 33 massacres (defined as an attack in which at least three people are killed) committed in 2020.

In the week since the UN statement, the country has seen a further five massacres, including three within a 24-hour period across 21-22 August. In the first case, three Awá indigenous men were found murdered in Nariño, southwest Colombia, on 18 August.

On Friday 21 August, the country registered two horrifying events. In the first, five people were killed in El Caracol in the eastern department of Arauca. That same day, six young men were murdered in El Tambo, department of Cauca. Cristian David Millán, Jaime Muñoz Campo, brothers Hiner and Esneider Collazos Huila, Yulber Edilson Flor Muñoz and Nicolás Orlando Hurtado were abducted by armed men and later found dead with signs of torture.

Less than 24 hours later, six people were murdered and two others abducted in Tumaco in Nariño. The attack took place on the same day President Iván Duque visited Nariño for a security meeting and was jeered by local residents angry at his government’s failure to respond to the human rights catastrophe impacting communities across the country.

In the final incident, three young people were killed in the Venecia zone of Antioquia during the night of 23 August.

Following the latest attacks – excluding the most recent incident in Antioquia – the number of massacres committed in Colombia in 2020 has been revised up to 43, accounting for 181 people killed. Many of the victims have been young. The majority of cases have been concentrated in regions that have seen the highest number of selective killings of community leaders, human rights defenders and former guerrillas in the peace process. Antioquia has been the worst-affected region, with eight massacres (nine including the 23 August case), followed by Cauca with eight and Nariño with seven.

While the violence is largely attributed to paramilitary and other armed groups which control drugs trafficking and other illegal activities in different parts of the country, increased militarisation of these regions has failed to stem the violence, often corresponding with a rise in human rights abuses committed against civilians. As with the killings of social activists and former guerrillas, the vast majority of massacres have remained in impunity.