Deep concern over assassinations of political, social and human rights workers in Colombia

13 October 2020

The Socialist International is deeply concerned to hear of the growing number of assassinations of social leaders and human rights workers taking place in Colombia, and calls for immediate attention to halt these killings and to protect those who are vulnerable.

The assassinations, which have been highlighted by Amnesty International, the Alianza Verde de Colombia, the media, and other human rights organisations, have specifically targeted social and political leaders and people working for the rights of the poor, indigenous, Afro-descent communities, women and other minorities, as well as community workers who have campaigned against local corruption. The Electoral Observation Mission of Colombia have reported that, in 2020, at least 81 social, political and community leaders have been assassinated, and that out of 248 reported acts of violence this year, 50% of the victims were social activists. This is not a new occurrence and, although the numbers did decrease slightly after the 2016 peace agreement, these assassinations have been taking place for some years with concerning figures. In the first month of this year, the number of deaths was more than double of those in the same months of 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, with those vulnerable reporting they feel they are easier to target during quarantine measures and therefore much more at risk, and that support, public attention and investigation has been much harder to achieve.

The Socialist International has a long history of working and engagement with Colombia, where we count with the Liberal Party of Colombia as a member, and is proud to have also participated in the process that led to the M-19 Peace Treaty in 1990. At our last Congress, held in Cartagena in 2017, we welcomed the steps the country had taken under the government of the time led by President Santos to advance peace, social security and health, diversity and progress. The International calls for an investigation into these murders in order to find those responsible and to ensure that all those vulnerable are well protected. It is always the mandate of governments to protect the rights of every person regardless of race, belief or political preference, and this must be upheld by law.