Killing of human rights leaders in Colombia more than doubles: study

Colombia has seen a spike in assassinations of human rights leaders in 2018, according to a report by a leading human rights think tank.

A total of 46 human rights leaders have been killed so far this year, up from 26 in the same period last year, found a study by Colombian NGO Somos Defensores.

Paramilitary groups were responsible for three of the killings, four were murdered by guerrilla groups and another four were killed at the hands of security forces.

The perpetrators of the vast majority of the murders, 35 in total, remain unknown.

The investigative body also recognized a total of 132 acts of aggression against public defenders so far this year. Of the registered acts, there were 12 attacks, 66 death threats and one case of forced disappearance.

The provinces in which the aggression occurred were predominately in areas at the heart of the country’s conflict, with Cauca, Antioquia and Norte de Santander figuring heavily in the statistics.

These numbers come as no surprise to the NGO, seeing as the state has not come up with “an effective formula” to stop the wave of selective violence against social leaders.

The UN has said it is “extremely concerned” about the increase in violence surrounding social leaders while Inspector General Fernando Carrillo has “urged” authorities to “assume their commitments to defend the lives of social leaders.”

While the government has attempted to reel in the varying armed criminal groups responsible for a lot of these acts — as seen with the 2016 peace deal with the FARC guerrilla organisation, and ongoing peace negotiations with the ELN rebel group — it has clearly failed to provide basic security, and protect human rights defenders, rural community leaders and other social activists.

This bloodbath of defenders in the country clearly doesn’t matter to the state.

Somos Defensores

“Everything indicates that in 2018 the number of murders will continue to break historical records,” said Somos Defensores, adding that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos “is leaving power with a wake of dead leaders that it cannot justify.”

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