Colombia continues to be immersed in a hurricane of violence against human rights defenders and social leaders. A total of 53 human rights defenders were killed between January and March of this year, according to a report by the Somos Defensores Program released this Thursday, which also documents 254 attacks, including homicides, attacks and threats. The year 2021 was not far behind: 139 social leaders murdered and 996 attackedwhich represents an average of 2.7 daily attacks on the most violent year of the last 12.
The Information System on Aggressions against Human Rights Defenders in Colombia (Siaddhh), on which Somos Defensores relied for its analysis, described this figure as “alarming, since it exceeds the 28 confirmed cases during the same period of 2021, with an increase of 89% (25 more cases).”
The program also released data on violence against defenders in 2021, the “most violent in the last 12 years against this sector” in which it documented 996 attacks, including 139 murders.
When breaking down the figures for the quarter, Somos Defensores indicated that 15 murders occurred in January, 20 in February and 18 in March, and that four victims were women -two community leaders, one victim and one from the LGBTI sector- and 49 men.
Cauca and Putumayo
The departments of Cauca (southwest) and Putumayo (south) registered the highest number of murders of defenders, with seven in each of them.
“During this time, Cauca once again occupied the first place in number of murders, a place in which human rights defenders function amid hostilities due to the presence of armed groups, mainly FARC dissidents,” the Program points out.
In Nariño there were 6 murders, followed by Arauca (5), Norte de Santander (4), Cesar and Chocó (3) and Antioquia, Bolívar, Caquetá, San Andrés, Santander and Valle del Cauca (2).
Meanwhile in Boyacá, Casanare, Córdoba, La Guajira, Meta and Tolima there was a homicide in each of them.
When analyzing the leadership that these people exercised, the greatest number of victims corresponds to the communal ones, with 16 cases; followed by indigenous, 12; community, 11, and peasants, 4, among others.
As for those presumed responsible for the 53 murders, 40 are attributed to unknown perpetrators, 7 to FARC dissidents, 2 to the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, 2 to the Army and 2 to paramilitaries.
“These data maintain the trend of previous periods where in most cases it is not possible to determine the authorship of the murderswhich hinders investigation and prosecution work and contributes to the persistence of impunity,” the report states.
When referring to the 254 attacks, Somos Defensores points out that in Colombia there was an average of 2.8 daily between January and March.
“With this figure, there is an increase of 41% compared to the same period in 2021 when 180 events were recorded”says the document, adding that the figures make 2022 “projected as a highly dangerous year, where threats have become effective and have claimed the lives of those who exercise social leadership in the regions,” it concludes.