Colombia’s Inspector General requested the immediate implementation of a heightened protection plan for people involved in the land restitution process, in a letter to government and state bodies.
“The Inspector General calls on the various government institutions as they are concerned with the issue, to present and put in place an urgent interim plan for the prevention of displacement and the protection of individuals(…)” the letter stated.
Community leaders working to restore land to people displaced by illegal armed groups have long been a target of assassinations, with at least 20 restitution activists murdered between August 2010 and October 2011, according to a report from the NGO United States Office on Colombia.
The letter came days after the high-profile death of land rights campaigner Manuel Ruiz. The community leader from the department of Choco was found dead March 27 after evidence of torture. His 15-year-old son was with Ruiz at the time they disappeared and is also believed dead.
Ruiz had unsuccessfully requested government protection three times since last year, according to documents reviewed by magazine Semana.
Colombian Congressman Guillermo Rivera proposed government officials with more than two security personnel should give up a bodyguard to protect threatened land rights leaders, reported by Radio Caracol Friday.