The number of murders of human rights and community activists in Colombia fell to 78 in the first half of the year, according to the country’s human rights ombudsman, but the assaults continue.
The assassination of activists is a major issue in the Andean country, with President Ivan Duque pledging that he will not rest until those guilty are brought to justice, despite accusations that little actual action has been taken.
“Though the number of killings decreased from 90 in the first half of 2020 to 78 in the same period of 2021, I regret that murders and threats against our leaders continue to occur, mostly as a result of criminal acts by illegal armed organizations,” stated ombudsman Carlos Camargo.
“As a state we must redouble our efforts and take all necessary measures to guarantee the integrity and the lives of social and community leaders and defenders of human rights,” Camargo added, citing a report from his office.
The provinces of Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Narino and Choco recorded the most killings of activists between January and June, the report showed. All have armed groups present, cultivation of coca and illegal mining.
Colombia’s nearly six-decade conflict between the government, leftist rebels and crime gangs descended from right-wing paramilitary groups has killed 260,000 people and displaced millions.
The leftist National Liberation Army rebels, former members of the FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal and crime gangs like the Clan del Golfo – who are fighting for control of drug trafficking routes and illegal mining areas – are responsible for activist killings, Duque has said.
The ombudsman says 182 activists were killed in 2020, an increase from 134 the year before. Human rights groups, who maintain their own counts, say the figure is higher.