A land rights campaigner and his teenage son have been disappeared by “paramilitaries” in the northwest of Colombia, an NGO said Monday.
Manuel Ruiz, a community leader in the Pacific coastal department of Choco, and his 15-year-old son Samir were last seen on Saturday with two paramilitaries who forced them to get out of their car and go with them, according to NGO Intereclesiastical Commission of Justice and Peace, which helps protect threatened human rights workers.
Ruiz has campaigned for the return of land to a poor displaced black community. He was due to meet with government officials Tuesday to go through a list of people or businesses who were illegally occupying land in Curvarado, said the NGO in a statement.
According to Justice and Peace, Ruiz and his son contacted their family hours after they had been taken to say they had been taken to a nearby bridge by paramilitaries who were demanding money for their release. The next day the family searched the area with police and found a trail of blood, but police called off the search due to bad weather, it claims.
The following day a local resident reported a body matching Ruiz’s description had washed up near the bridge, but police failed to take any action or inform the family, according to the commission.
Ruiz appeared on a list of 37 threatened land rights leaders that was circulated in the area anonymously last year. Colombia’s Constitutional Court has told the government that it must protect black communities during land restitution processes.
Dozens of land rights activists have been killed since President Juan Manuel Santos introduced a law that would allow displaced families to reclaim land that was stolen by illegal armed groups.