Alarmed by the “strikingly high number” of human rights defenders were killed, harassed and threatened in Colombia, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) in the country on Friday, called on authorities to “make a significant effort” to “tackle the endemic impunity” surrounding these cases.
OHCHR described the dozens of deaths since the beginning of the year as a “terrible trend” that seems to be worsening.
Spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that the rights office in Colombia is “closely following up on the allegations” reported by civil society, State institutions and the national human rights institution, that in the first four months of 2019 recorded a total of 51 human rights defenders and activists have been allegedly killed.
“This staggering number continues a negative trend that intensified during 2018 when our staff documented the killings of 115 human rights defenders”, he said.
The violations are occurring against a backdrop of stigmatized rights defenders, especially those living in rural areas, which lack basic social services and have high levels of poverty and illegally-armed and criminal groups.
“There is an urgent need to address disparities in the enjoyment of all rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights and especially in rural areas”, Mr. Colville stressed.
A wide range of activists have been targeted, including community leaders, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, environmentalists, journalists and women’s rights defenders, some involved in local politics.
“Community leaders are particularly vulnerable and account for more than 70 percent of all recorded killings”, the OHCHR spokesperson explained, adding that some were targeted because they supported aspects of the historic 2016 Colombian peace agreement, including land restitution and victims’ rights.