PBI-Colombia notes with concern the continued killing of people who defend peace and human rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

On April 3, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project signed this joint communique that supports the call for a ceasefire in Colombia.

That statement also highlighted, “With great concern, we note and warn about the continuation of killings against people who defend peace and human rights, including those who signed the Final Peace Agreement with the Farc-Ep.”

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) signed that peace agreement on November 24, 2016.

The Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz) has reported that between November 24, 2016 and July 20, 2019, 627 social leaders and human rights defenders have been killed and 138 former FARC-EP guerrillas in the process of reincorporation have been assassinated.

Now, Prensa Latina reports, “[On April 2 Indepaz said] that 71 social leaders and/or human rights defenders have been murdered so far in 2020. It also said that 20 ex-guerrillas were killed in the process of returning to civilian life.”

Also, on April 2, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) responded to “the Colombian National Protection Unit’s announcement that it would be suspending the country’s Risk Assessment and Protection Measures Recommendation Committee, which grants protective measures to journalists, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CPJ says, “At a moment of increasing deadly violence against human rights defenders and journalists across Colombia, the state cannot use the coronavirus as an excuse to abandon its responsibility to protect its most at-risk citizens.”

In this April 2019 report produced by several groups including PBI-Colombia, the concern had already been expressed that:

“The National Protection Unit (UNP) that is responsible for the implementation of protection measures for social leaders and human rights defenders is failing to respond to the urgent needs of social leaders and human rights defenders. It continues to have a very narrow approach, providing for example simply a bulletproof jacket and a cell phone, rather than more integrated measures designed with beneficiaries’ input, to address collective as well as individual protection needs and with differential approaches based on gender, ethnicity, and geographic location. In addition, the UNP is facing a financial deficit that is sapping its already limited ability to respond.”

The recommendations in that report included:

“Ensure that the National Protection Unit (UNP) implements collective protection measures in consultation with affected communities, with a differentiated ethnic, gender and territorial approach. Ensure in addition an independent audit of the UNP to investigate corruption and inefficient bureaucratic procedures within the UNP and to make recommendations to streamline delivery of protection measures and ensure close consultation with beneficiaries.”

Some of the human rights defenders accompanied by PBI-Colombia have also received protection measures through the National Protection Unit.

For instance, PBI-Colombia has noted, “The Foundation Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (FCSPP) was granted precautionary measures by the IACHR [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] in 1999, and some of its members have measures from the National Protection Unit (UNP) Protection Program. However, these measures will not be sufficient unless the causes behind the risks to FCSPP’s members are eliminated.”

This recent Peace Brigades International statement highlights:

“In PBI we are constantly evaluating the context and taking measures to guarantee the safety and health of those collaborating with the organisation and the human rights defenders we support. These actions include increasing digital accompaniment and virtual monitoring with the individuals and organisations we support. We will continue to provide protection for those at the frontline throughout these challenging times.”

The full International Civil Society Organizations statement supporting the call for a ceasefire signed by PBI-Colombia can be read here.

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