Three Colombia human rights defenders were killed and two barely survived assassination attempts over the weekend amid growing security concerns in the country.
The assassinations are the latest in a series of violent incidents targeting human rights workers as the country prepares for the signing of the peace accords between the government and the Marxist FARC rebel group.
The situation is especially worrying in Caqueta, where pamphlets have allegedly been circulated by the formally demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), warning “militia members and frontmen of the FARC” that they “are here to stay,” according to weekly Semana.
A paramilitary and drug trafficking group very active during the Colombian armed conflict from 1997-2006, the AUC largely demobilized ten years ago.
So far this year, more than 70 human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia, which has alarmed authorities to the presidential level, considering the government is in the process of making peace with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
The killings spur chilling memories of the 1980s when paramilitary groups assassinated thousands of people associated with the guerrillas’ attempt to enter into politics, exactly like they are now.
President Juan Manuel Santos took to Twitter to call a meeting of a high-level human rights commission “to take actions against the crimes and aggression against social leaders. Peace does not wait.”
FARC peace negotiator Pablo Catatumbo also tweeted, condemning the “systematic murders of peasant leaders” and demanding the “immediate implementation of the Security Guarantees Agreement,” referring to the demobilization pact that is part of the peace deal.
Both sides have called for the rapid implementation of the peace accords in light of the increasingly fragile ceasefire and the apparent increase in assassination attempts on human rights defenders.