Twenty land right activists and leaders of displaced communities have been killed since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in August 2010, said a report by the non-governmental U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC) released Tuesday.
According to the report, the killing of these displaced leaders is impeding the future implementation of the Victims Law designed to return land stolen from displaced Colombians to the rightful owners.
In the report released today, the NGO revealed that the Colombian government failed to provide protection to the killed leaders “despite the imminent risk they ran and despite having requested [protective measures] on several occasions,” it states.
The report advocates for a rigorous investigation of the murders by the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office, and for the creation of a protection program “tailored to the needs of the communities, social leaders and human rights defenders leading the restitution process.”
USOC insisted that such a program must include “a gender and minority perspective to address the particular threats that women, Africo-Colombian and indigenous leaders face.”
In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, several U.S.-based human rights groups agreed that the restitution process promised by the Victims Law will not be successful on the long term if such measures are not taken. “A failure to effectively protect returning communities will only perpetuate the conflict,” the organizations wrote.
The law, which President Santos labelled “historic” last May, has yet to come into effect and is perceived by many as a positive step towards long-term conflict resolution.