Colombia accounts for almost half of human rights defenders assassinated in 2023

(Image: The Colombian Way)

Colombia accounts for almost half of the human rights defenders who were assassinated globally around the world, according to human rights NGO Front Line Defenders.

In its annual report, Front Line Defenders said that 142 of the 300 assassinations of human rights defenders that were registered last year took place in Colombia.

Latin America was by far the most dangerous regions for the defense of human rights in the world with 215 assassinations, according to the NGO.

Assassinations of human rights defenders

  1. Colombia (142)
  2. Mexico (30)
  3. Brazil (24)
  4. Honduras (19)
  5. Ukraine (11)
  6. Philippines (10)
  7. Palestine (9)
  8. Sudan (8)
  9. India (7)
  10. Iran (3)
Source: HRD Memorial Initiative

Almost 29% of the assassinations registered by Front Line Defenders in Latin America corresponded to the violent deaths of indigenous rights activists.

A quarter century after the UN adopted a Declaration on human rights defenders, not enough progress has been made to ensure defenders are valued and protected. In this time, thousands of defenders have paid with their lives and many more face ongoing attacks and intimidation for their peaceful work. Urgent action is needed to change this.

Front Line Defenders

Land rights defenders made up 10% of the registered assassinations in Latin America.

The NGO also registered high numbers of death threats, cases of assault and systematic legal harassment against people defending the rights of their communities.

In many of these cases, opposition to business enterprises seemed to cause the attacks on human rights defenders.

The role of business in the threats faced by HRDs who raise business-related issues, violations, and impacts was particularly prominent in the region. With the acquiescence, support and often protection of national and local authorities, extractive, agro-industrial and other megaprojects continued to expand, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, eviscerating natural resources, livelihoods and culture and condemning communities to further impoverishment.

Front Line Defenders

The high number of assassinations in Colombia are despite explicit efforts to protect human rights defenders as part of an ongoing peace process.

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