The Colombian Context

Colombia showcases an alarming trend in the rise of aggressions – including threats, murders, assaults, abductions, disappearances, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detentions, injuries, arbitrary use of the criminal system and theft of sensitive information – against social leaders and human rights defenders, especially in areas where the dispute over territory and resources are the subject of multiple interests.

Over 77% of murdered social leaders between 2009-2018 were individuals whose activism and demands centered around rural issues, often related to resource use and land ownership. These individuals include, but are not limited to, representatives of the Juntas de Acción Comuna, peasant leaders, indigenous leaders, afro-descendent leaders, land reclaimers, and environmental activists.  Threatening these people is not only unjust on the individual level, but creates a ripple into the community, dissuading others from voicing their opinions and dreams, putting at risk local empowerment and emancipation.

While the FARC Peace Accords were lauded as an advancement towards establishing peace in Colombia, the rate at which social leaders are being killed has increased, a reality which was overshadowed by the perceived ‘success’ on the diplomatic level. While the FARC are arguably less of a problem, the competition over Colombia’s resources continues at an accelerated rate, leading us to believe that the assassination and disappearance of community leaders will continue, and perhaps worsen, as long as the communities they represent are viewed as an obstacle to the economic and political interest of both legal and illegal actors and institutions – cartels, government agencies, investors, corporations – that see these territories as a source of wealth for which they are determined to kill.