Canadian prime minister should express concern to Colombian president about the growing death toll of defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Indigenous journalist Abelardo Liz was killed on August 13 by the Colombian Army while covering a campesino protest. He was hit by a bullet in the chest and abdomen when soldiers began evicting Indigenous campesinos from a farm.

This Indepaz webpage keeps an updated list of the social leaders and human rights defenders who have been assassinated in Colombia in 2020.

As of August 18, it lists 194 people who were union, Indigenous, peasant-communal, Afro-descendent, LGBTI and environmental activists.

It also lists the names of 8 family members related to those noted above as well as 41 former combatants with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who disarmed and reintegrated into society following the peace agreement in 2016.

On January 15 of this year, CNN reported: “Human rights activists and community leaders in Colombia are being killed at an alarming rate, the United Nations human rights agency warned as it urged the government to ‘make a strenuous effort’ to prevent attacks on those who are defending fundamental rights.”

The UN stated: “We call on the authorities to redouble their efforts to ensure a free and secure environment for civic engagement and to increase the presence of civil State authorities in rural areas to provide basic services, such as health and education.”

At that time, UN Geneva also highlighted: “The single most targeted group was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians. The killings of female human rights defenders increased by almost 50% in 2019 compared to 2018.”

Despite the alarming number of defenders killed and the plea from the United Nations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not raised this situation with Colombian President Ivan Duque in either of their calls this year.

The readouts on the meetings between Trudeau and Duque on May 11, 2020 and July 31, 2020 make no mention of the human rights crisis in Colombia.

We encourage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to echo the UN’s concerns about the alarming level of violence against defenders in his next conversation with the Colombian president. We further encourage Members of Parliament from all political parties to highlight to the Prime Minister the urgency of doing so.

If you are on Twitter, please retweet this demand.

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