Colombian human rights defender Norma Irene Perez, who was involved in investigating allegations of a mass grave in La Macarena, was found shot to death, according to a Bogota-based NGO.
The Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDH) announced in a press release that Perez was found dead with multiple bullet wounds in the rural municipality of La Union, close to La Macarena in the Meta department, on August 13. Perez, a mother of four, went missing on August 7.
La Macarena mayor’s office claims Perez died after stepping on a land mine and was not murdered.
Perez was a member of the Upper Guayabero Regional Committee for Human Rights. She was among rights workers who in July agitated for an investigation into allegations of 2,000 unidentified bodies in a La Macarena graveyard.
The Colombian government denied the existence of a mass grave and said that the Meta site in question is an old cemetery with 449 individual graves.
Then-President Alvaro Uribe claimed that the allegations were an attempt by the “mouthpieces of terrorism” to discredit the country’s security forces.
The CPDH said that Uribe’s comments “put at serious risk” the lives of those involved in reporting the alleged mass grave, including Perez.
The site is next to an army base, and human rights defenders have suggested that the unidentified bodies may be those of civilians murdered by soldiers and presented as guerrillas killed in combat in so-called “false positive” killings.
Human rights defenders and opposition politicians who participated in reporting the La Macarena site have demanded state protection due to concerns that their lives may also be in danger, and requested an investigation into the murder.