The Peace agreement was finally signed. The start of 2017 was marked by the same trend towards the end of 2016: Polarization, skepticism, historical decline in violence in the context of confrontation between the State and the FARC, illegal armed groups inhabiting former FARC areas and a government cornered by the Corruption, extreme right-wing opposition to The Havana agreements and an increasingly mar-ked focus on violence against leaders, which does not seem to stop.
What in 2016 seemed like a bad premonition, today is a serious reality: there is an important increase of homicides and attacks against the life and physical integrity of the defenders of the Human rights in Colombia. And it is not new violence. As it has been documented, at least since the start of the Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders) Program, attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders have been a historical reality in the context of sociopolitical violence and now with the silence of the FARC rifles, this violence is even more focused on this type of activists.
For this reason, this report aims to raise a voice of warning to the country’s human rights defenders, given the lack of effective political protection by the State, especially in rural areas, in an increasingly polarized and difficult environment for the defense of all kinds of rights and activists behind these social struggles, despite the context of «peace». «Agúzate» (Look out!) as seen in the title of this report (taken from the famous homonymous song by salsa singers Richie Ray and Bobbie Cruz), is a call for self-protection between defenders, to assist in mutual care amongst activists before a passive state protection, a null prevention of such violence and a minimum advance in the investigations of these crimes by the Attorney General of the Nation.
Given the historical moment that the Country is currently living and the importance it has for the peace process, the work of social leaders, it is necessary to advance in processes of political self-protection and mutual care, because the lack of real results of protection, we insist, especially in rural areas, by the Colombian Government and the Colombian State to guarantee the exercise of the defense of human rights, is evident.
There is a lot of information, diagnoses, initiatives, boards of analysis, warnings of risks, both of civil society and Ombudsman’s Office, and many official pronouncements on the enormous efforts made by the National Government in this respect; however, the killings and attacks against the lives of these activists for peace, democracy and hu-man rights, do not stop. This year there is already a 30% increase in homicides compared to the same period in 2016.
“Agúzate” (Look out!) is a call not to lose the hope that achieving peace in Colombia is possible (also being a historic commitment of the human rights movement), but not at the cost of the activist’s lives. The warning also includes the coming electoral situation, since in previous years there has been evidence of higher levels of territorial violence in elective periods and that, hopefully, on this occasion, the trend will disappear.
“Agúzate” (Look Out!) is also a lively message from the Colombian social and human rights movement, which continues to support the implementation of the peace agreements with the FARC, recognizes the impact of the silence of the rifles and continues to contribute to the peace conversations between the National Government and the ELN; but is also being affected by the death of so many social leaders in the country. A message addressed to the entities of the Government and Colombian State to, without delay, take substantive policies, aimed to generating the necessary guarantees for the exercise of social leadership and the defense of human rights. For example, to stimulate and strengthen to the National Security Guarantees Commission, created to design the public policy related to the dismantling of paramilitarism and similar groups, or to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate in depth all the cases, and not only the easiest ones.
This report is also developed in order to contribute, in some way, to the debate and provide diagnosis elements to the institutions responsible for the policy, for the decisions that they must continue to make before this phenomenon. In it you will find, first of all, a brief profile of the assassinated leaders between January and June of 2017, as a manner of tribute for their dedication and legacy, especially to the 7 women who lost their lives. Subsequently, a brief political analysis of the context faced by these activists. In a third part and as usual, a breakdown of the statistics on aggressions processed from the Information System.
We appreciate the technical support provided to SIADDHH by CINEP; as well as the support of the platform of human rights Coordination Colombia Europe United States, CCEEU, the Movement of Victims of State Crimes, MOVICE, to Colombia Diversa, to Patriotic March, to the Congress of Peoples, to Agrarian Summit, Ethnic Peasant and Popular and the Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, for the information that nourishes our report. Special thanks to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia – OACNUDH. Also, a special recognition for the political and financial support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombia and the international cooperation agencies DIAKONIA, MISEREOR and Terre des Hommes – Schweiz, as their support was fundamental for the accomplishment of this Report.