Worrying Insecurity of Social Leaders in Colombia, Warns UN

Alberto Brunori, representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, this Tuesday expressed strong concern about the lack of protection of social leaders in the country.

The state must send effective messages to protect human rights defenders, said Brunori, who called for an investigation and punishment of those responsible for the attack on some 20 social leaders last Saturday in the department of Cauca.

‘We urge respect for the freedom to defend human rights and to participate in the political and economic decisions of the country, without fear of receiving public signals, threats and attacks against their lives,’ the UN said.

According to the UN High Representative, the issue of social leaders in Colombia must be reinforced from the base of the territories.

‘The assassinations and threats to leaders on a big issue and the protection measures must be adequate according to the situation of the leaders,’ he told Radio Caracol de Colombia.

In addition to the strong appeal of the UN Human Rights Office to the National Government, the international body revealed yesterday that after the attack with grenades against the Afro-Colombian leader Francia Márquez and her comrades in Cauca the threats against their lives continued.

We urge the Government to coordinate and implement with the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca and the Association of Afrodescendant Women of Northern Cauca effective protection measures with an ethnic and gender focus, the agency added.

The European Union, the Colombian Truth Commission and human rights organizations repudiated the aggression against Márquez, winner of the 2018 Goldman Prize, considered the Nobel Prize for the Environment.

On Saturday night, Márquez was meeting with some 20 leaders in the municipality of Santander de Quilichao, in the northern part of the Colombian Cauca, when armed men shot them and threw a grenade at them, injuring two members of the National Protection Unit.

The president, Iván Duque, rejected what happened and promised speed in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the attack.

Originally published in Prensa Latina.