Colombia: at least 78 human rights defenders were killed in 2021 |  Strong figures from the UN Office for Human Rights in the country

At least 78 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2021, most of them in the department of Cauca’s Valley, reported the Office of the HIM-HER-IT for Human Rights in the country. The international organization clarified that the figure does not represent all the murders in Colombia but the cases that they have received and verified. Violence against social leaders, as well as the massacres of civilians, became one of the main problems for the government of Iván Duque, the target of frequent criticism from the international community and non-governmental organizations that demand action to stop the deaths.

The highest number of homicides against defenders occurred in southern Valle del Cauca, where 31 were killed, five of them in Cali, the departmental capital, which was the epicenter of protests in the middle of last year against the social and economic policy of the government. Meanwhile in the neighboring department of Cauca the number of murdered was eleven, three of them in the town of Algeria, constantly besieged by illegal armed groups.

These two departments have been in one spiral of violence originated in the disputes of different groups outside the law, like FARC dissidents, the guerrilla of the Army of National Liberation (THE N) Y mexican posters, who fight for control of the territory for drug trafficking.

In addition, the UN Office for Human Rights documented that six defenders were killed in Antioquia, while in Chocó, on the border with Panama, and Cundinamarca, there were five in each. The department of Norte de Santander, bordering Venezuela, in whose territory four defenders were assassinated, did not escape this situation.

When disaggregating the information, the UN Office for Human Rights indicated that Of the total murdered, eight were women and five of them were indigenous. Of the 70 men, six belonged to Afro communities and six were indigenous. In both of the 39 crimes that the agency is verifying, the majority occurred in Cauca (eight), Nariño (six), Antioquia (five), Putumayo and Bolívar (four) and Valle del Cauca (three).

Additionally, in 85 of the allegations they received, it was not possible to prove the condition of social leader of the murdered persons or that the hypothesis of death was related to their community work, the foregoing according to internationally defined standards, for which they were declared as “inconclusive” cases

The agency explained on its website how is the procedure to follow up on cases of homicides of human rights defenders. Allegations or complaints are received first; then these cases are taken to the territory and are called “cases in the verification process.” Those that meet the analysis parameters are called verified cases, while those that the UN Office cannot verify are called inconclusive cases.

The Colombian government maintains that armed groups dedicated to drug trafficking such as the Clan del Golfo, the dissidents of the demobilized FARC guerrillas and the ELN, among others, are the ones that mostly assassinate human rights defenders.

The UN also warned on Wednesday that the child population in Colombia is the main victim of the social and armed conflict in the country, despite the fact that the number of crimes against minors fell after the signing of the Peace Accords. According to the report published by the agency, at least 220 minors were recruited by irregular armed groups between July 2019 and June of last year.

In this sense, civil organizations in Colombia urged to deepen the peace talks between the Colombian government and the ELN, with the aim of stopping violent crimes, including the recruitment of infants and adolescents. Colombia faces an armed conflict of almost six decades that has left some 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

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