On 02 March 2017 Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao was in Medellin visiting her family when she was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen.
Ruth Alicia worked with a group of 12 indigenous and afro descendant communities on a food security project organised by the “Cumbre Agraria”. Both Ruth Alicia and her family are respected community leaders recognised for their sense of social responsibility and their solidarity with the communities in which they have lived. As a result of this social engagement, in health and education projects, Ruth Alicia and her family had been repeatedly threatened and forcibly displaced by paramilitary groups on two occasions.
On 2 March 2017, Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao was visiting family members in the Olaya Herrara neighbourhood in Medellín, Colombia, when she was assassinated by unidentified gunmen. According to witnesses, Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao was shot several times by two men while she was at her brother’s restaurant.
The killing of Ruth Alicia brings to 25 the number of community leaders and HRDs killed in Colombia since the start of this year. In its 2017 Annual Report, which covers the period January December 2016, Front Line Defenders reported 281 killings of HRDs worldwide. Eighty-six of those killings took place in Colombia, which makes Colombia the country with the highest number of killings of HRDs in the world.
The day after the killing Ruth Alicia’s sister received a phone call from someone in the area warning her that there was a rumour going around that the killers were waiting for Ruth Alicia’s sisters and mother to appear at the funeral so that they could be picked off too.
As a result of her social engagement in health and education projects, areas in which paramilitary militias want to retain control, Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao and her family had been repeatedly threatened and forcibly displaced by paramilitary groups on several occasions. The day after the killing, Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao’s sister received a phone call from someone in the area warning her that there was a rumour that the killers were waiting at the funeral of Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao to target her sisters and mother.
The Colombian government signed a peace deal with FARC rebels in November, but this has not made the country safer for indigenous and human rights activists. Instead, 2016 and the early months of 2017 have actually been some of the most dangerous times for activists, which some attribute to the power vacuum in areas historically controlled by FARC as they disarm. Despite all evidence to the contrary the government continues to maintain the position that these killings are neither systematic nor linked to paramilitary activity.
Front Line Defenders condemns the killing of WHRD Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao which is believed to be linked to her work in defence of the rights of her community. Front Line Defenders is also concerned at the increase in the number of killings of HRDs in Colombia. The government has invested too much effort in questioning whether some of the victims were actually HRDs rather than taking effective action to prevent the killings from happening.