Two ministers within President Alvaro Uribe’s administration submitted a bill to the Colombian Congress on Friday seeking to increase the punishment for those who harm human rights defenders.
According to a press release, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry submitted a bill proposing that the punishment for the murder, kidnapping and threatening of human rights defenders be increased to allow 56 year prison sentences.
According to the press release, the proposal comes as a result of the government’s efforts to protect human rights workers.
“The national government is conscious of the risky situation faced by human rights defenders. Because of that, it is necessary to include [these increased punishments] in the normal penal code against those who harm people, people who are invaluable in helping the state meet its obligation to secure, promote and protect fundamental rights,” the statement reads.
The proposal comes amidst mounting pressure, both locally and internationally, for the Colombian government to employ a stronger stance in its protection of human rights.
On Thursday, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International issued a report blasting Colombia for its human rights record, and said that eight human rights activists were murdered in 2009.
On Tuesday, Colombian NGO the Program for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported higher figures, stating that in 2009, 32 human rights defenders were murdered, while a further 142 faced various forms of aggression and oppression.
The report claimed that during the last year, 99 human rights workers were threatened, seventeen were the victims of attacks, fifteen were arbitrarily arrested, three were wounded, and one was tortured.