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Avellon Williams 

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – Violence is causing harm to many people, especially children, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, community leaders, and human rights defenders.

President Ivan Duque Marquez /Image, Reuters/

As Colombia’s new government takes office next month, the report outlines several recommendations that should be implemented as soon as possible to protect lives and protect the rights of those affected.

Protest in Colombia /Image, APN/

Prevent further violence- Besides calling for reform of the security sector, the report, which is in Spanish, mentions human rights violations committed by State security forces, including “arbitrary deprivations of life“.

It is also imperative to investigate allegations that some State officials and security forces have had links with violent groups.

Michelle Bachelet /Image, UNN/

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “It is the State’s duty to protect the population from violence and to do so in a manner respecting international human rights law. This is why we are urging the government to adopt public policies to efficiently respond to and prevent further violence, in compliance with Colombia’s obligations under international human rights law.” 

Growing presence – According to the report, the government must focus on dismantling non-State armed groups and criminal organizations operating in Colombia, as well as consolidating the rule of law and strengthening public institutions.

Arrest Bloodshed by armed groups in Colombia /Image, BBC/

Following a 2016 peace deal between the authorities and the FARC-EP militia group, which ended a half-century of conflict, violence has dropped dramatically. It was reported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that homicides fell from 12,665 in 2012 to less than 1,240 in 2016, citing the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ).

Over the past two years, non-State armed groups and criminal organizations – often involved in drug trafficking, illegal mining, and other illicit activities – have increased their presence across the globe.

Image, ALQ/

According to the report, the government’s largest military response has failed to stem this expansion, while the absence of civilian institutions has worsened the situation. Children and adolescents are also more likely to be recruited by non-State armed groups because of a lack of education and job opportunities.

Gaining control – In Colombia, the UN Human Rights Office confirmed the killing of 100 human rights defenders last year. Additionally, the office received information about 114 killings of activists between 1 January and 30 June 2022, with 22 confirmed cases.

Colombia police pushback against gang violence in the city /Image, TNYT/

As a result of the report, armed groups and criminal organizations have adopted a variety of tactics to gain control over communities, including imposing rules and restrictions.

According to one human rights defender, “We have to do what they tell us…There are checkpoints on the road where men with heavy weapons stop us, tell us we need to ask permission to leave and check our phones.” 

Traditional ways threatened – Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities have occasionally been forced into illicit activities, such as fishing and hunting, and to abandon their traditional lifestyles.

Communities are at risk of losing their cultural identity and autonomy as a result of violence, according to the report. There are huge risks facing communities and their leaders who are trying to protect their land, their lives, their culture, and the environment.

Among the victims of threats and attacks are the Nasa indigenous people of the Cauca department, located in the southwest. During the first few months of this year, four Nasa leaders were killed. Violence, drug trafficking, and extractive industries threaten the whole way of life and survival of the community, according to the report.

Colombia’s Indigenous ‘Jiw people’ /Image MB/

Similarly, the current situation may hasten the disappearance of the Jiw indigenous people, who live along River Guaviare, and whose population is currently around 2,261.

Implement the peace deal – As part of the report, the new administration is urged to ensure that the peace agreement is fully implemented, including the voluntary substitution of coca crops rather than their forced eradication.

Ensure Peace Agreement /Image, CSP/ 

It is also necessary to implement and consolidate rural reform and development programmes, with the participation of affected communities, as well as strengthen the capacity of local governments, including Afro-descendant and indigenous communities.

According to Bachelet, the focus on peace and regional implementation of the peace agreement being advocated by the incoming government “is a sound approach, which my office supports.”

In addition, the UN human rights chief emphasized the need for dialogue to rebuild trust in the state and its institutions.

Bachelet urged the authorities to listen to all sectors of society. “Rural and remote areas have suffered the most from this scourge of violence, but they are also best positioned to help chart a more peaceful future.”

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Avellon Williams

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