Even with the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) in Colombia continues to cause alarm. According to the Somos Defensores organization, an HRD was attacked every other day and one murdered every five days between January and June 2016. Due to structural impunity, the majority of these crimes went without prosecution.
Land and environmental activists are especially at risk. Peace Brigades International (PBI) and Peace Watch Switzerland (PWS) are using their international presence, monitoring, and support to protect the HRDs. Here are their reports on two situations.
Between November 17 and 21, 2016, four community leaders were killed in Colombia and a further three survived attempts on their lives. One of the survivors is activist Argemiro Lara, leader and member of several organizations campaigning for land rights and the restitution of land for farmers in the northern Sucre Department. He sustained no injuries during the attack thanks to his bodyguard. Lara’s involvement has caused him to fall victim to intimidation and threats on multiple occasions and although he has always reported these incidents, there have been no consequences for the perpetrators. PBI is monitoring this case.
Human rights defender, Alvaro García, has been imprisoned since April 2016 without being sentenced under law. Alvaro is one of the most important activists involved in the land case of the Bella Unión and El Guayabo communities, which run the serious risk of being evicted from their land. The false and unfounded allegations against Alvaro are part of a broad strategy to criminalize community leaders. Three other leaders had to go into hiding for more than six months before all charges against them were dropped. This situation was also used to intimidate the other people living there, undermining the community’s legal efforts, and deliberately exploiting the leaders’ absence to create precedents and illegally take possession of new land. PWS is monitoring this case.