At least 78 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2021, most of them in the department of Cauca’s Valleyreported the Office of the UN for human rights in the country. The international organization clarified that the figure does not represent all the murders in Colombia, but rather the cases they have received and verified. The 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 the southern Valle del Cauca, where 31 were killed, five of them in Cali, the departmental capital, which was the epicenter of the 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 Argelia, constantly besieged by illegal armed groups.

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

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

Breaking down the information, the UN Human Rights Office indicated that Of the total number of murdered, eight were women and five of them were indigenous. Of the 70 men, six belonged to Afro communities and six were indigenous.. As for 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 status of social leader of the murdered persons or that the hypothesis of death was related to their community work, the foregoing in accordance with internationally defined standards, for which they were declared as “inconclusive” cases

The agency explained on its website the procedure for following 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 renamed “cases in the process of verification”. Those that meet the analysis parameters are called verified cases, while those that the UN Office fails to 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 guerrilla and the ELN, among others, are the ones that mostly kill 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 was reduced 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 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 ending 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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