August 2017

Colombia: “WAKE UP!” We are happy with peace, but they are killing us.

Colombia – Press Release on Somos Defensores report on killings of HRDs in the period January June 2017


We are happy with peace, but they are killing us. The movement of human rights defenders is on high alert because of the significant increase in the murder of social leaders since peace was signed with the FARC. The authorities are not taking strong action to protect the lives of these activists or to carry out effective investigations to identify those responsible for the killings and as a result the killings continue unabated. This wave of deaths can not only destabilise the peace process but risks destabilising the whole country if it is not acted on right now. Figures for the period January – June 2017 below.

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Download the report here

Between January and June 2017, the Colombian Human Rights Defenders Reporting System (SIADDHH) recorded a total of 335 individual attacks against defenders who were targeted in 225 threats, 51 murders, 32 attacks, 18 arbitrary detentions and 9 cases of prosecution. The increase in attacks against human rights defenders during the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, was up by 6%, going from 314 to 335.

Of these 335 attacks, 76% of the targets were male and 24% of the targets were female. The trend identified in our 2016 Annual Report, “Against the Ropes” regarding the increase in attacks against the life and physical integrity of defenders, is reflected in the current pattern of homicides and attacks. Since the signing of the peace accords in September 2016 until June 2017, 82 human rights defenders have been murdered and more than 50 have been victims of attempted killings.

Killings of HRDs in general have increased increased by 31% while killings of women human rights defenders increased compared to 2016 with a total of 7 in this period. The defenders most affected by this crime are community, peasant and Afro-descendant leaders in rural areas. Of particular concern is the practice of disappearance of the victims prior to killings in several recorded cases, as well as the use of extremely brutal torture in cases such as in that of José Yimer Cartagena in Córdoba who was stabbed 32 times and had his nails removed and his tongue torn out. An equally extreme case was that of Edenis Barrera in Casanare who was raped, impaled with branches and suffered stab wounds in different parts of her body. with sharp arms.

Among the alleged perpetrators of the 335 attacks reported by SIADDHH, we note that the paramilitaries are implicated with assumed responsibility in 197 cases (59%), unknown actors in 107 cases (32%), state agents in 30 cases (9%), And guerrillas in 1 case (0.1%)
In relation to the political context, the report states that despite innumerable announcements, commitments and statements by the national government and entities of the Colombian state related to the protection and prevention of aggression against human rights defenders in Colombia, the figures present a compelling picture of a very different reality. For example the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation is finally taking action but not at the pace needed to address the issue; there have been historic breakthroughs but these cannot keep pace with the volume of cases that are recorded on a daily basis.

While it is important to acknowledge that progress has been made in some cases, (cases which historically would have simply ended up in a file) it is still the case that violence against human rights defenders, while acknowledged by the state Is still far from being completely under control. It would be better if the Attorney General could use his position to produce concrete results to show who is behind this violence.

On the other hand the report points out how the issue of violence against defenders has been well and repeatedly flagged. At least 5 reports by state agencies, civil society organisations and academic institutions have identified the dangers faced by social leaders and human rights defenders. What is the government doing with these warnings? Why are the attacks not prevented? It is time for the government to PREVENT these killings and stop promising high-level special committees and committees for the protection of hard-working activists.

“Acúzate” (Wake Up) as this report is called, is a call not to lose hope that achieving peace ( a historic commitment of the human rights movement), in Colombia is possible but is also a call on all sides to ensure that human rights defenders don’t lose their lives in the process. This warning also refers to the forthcoming elections, since in previous years there has been evidence of higher levels of territorial violence in election periods. Hopefully, on this occasion, this trend will not be repeated.

“Agúzate” is also a strong message from Colombian civil society and the human rights movement to the entities of the Government and Colombian State to take without delay, substantive policies, aimed at generating the necessary guarantees for the exercise of social leadership and the defense of human rights. For example, to give impetus and strength to the National Security Guarantees Commission, created to design public policy related to the dismantling of paramilitarism and similar groups, or to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate in depth all cases, and not cherry pick only those that are seen as having the best chance of success.

“AGUZATE” They are killing us
The complete figures of the System of Information of violence against human rights defenders in Colombia SIADDHH for the period January-June 2017 and other periods can be consulted at

P.S. In September 2017 we will publish 3 special reports on the most important issues faced by defenders and how to confront them.

STOP WARS – Stop the War on Defenders (…) Coming soon.


On the morning of Wednesday 9 August, the body of Idaly Castillo Narváez was found among coffee bushes in  vereda Bella Vista in the province of Cauca. Idaly had been strangled and the body also showed signs of torture and sexual abuse.

Idaly Castillo Narváez was vice president of the local Junta de Acción and was also an active member of the local victims’  group the “Mesa de Participación de Víctimas del Municipio”. While the authorities have sent a technical team to carry out an investigation there is no immediate  evidence to explain the circumstances of the killing.

This week Colombian NGO Somos Defensores will launch its new report, covering the period January June 2017, and which documents  the killing of 51 HRDs since the start of the year.

Colombia: Nidio Dávila latest victim of paramilitary violence in Nariño

Nidio Dávila was a member of Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos de Nariño (Astracan) which works to protect the rights of peasant farmers and which, under Article 4 of the peace process, is active in promoting the substitution of coca production with other crops. Nidio was also part of the National Coordination of Cultivators of Coca, Poppy and Marijuana, Coccam, and the political and social movement Marcha Patriotica in Nariño.

Nidio attended the last meeting of the Association on Sunday 6 August. About 80 members of the local peasant community attended the meeting which discussed the substitution programme which Nidio actively supported.  That same day members of paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) took Nidio from his house. Initially they demanded that he pay a tax but he refused. He was then taken to the neighbouring town of El Cable where he was shot dead in front of the community and his body was dumped in the river Verde. The body was recovered from the river the next day in Vereda San Rafael.

According to witnesses, the killing  was the work of paramilitary forces, members of the AGC  who wanted to intimidate the community. They believe that this killing was a way of sending a message to the community that they should not take part in, or support, the coca substitution programme. The AGC have held two meetings with peasants in the area at which, in addition to issuing threats, they said that they were there to impose a tax  on coca dealers. They also promised to raise the price of coca leaf as a way of attracting new producers into the business.

This is an area which has traditionally had extensive coca production and the community is divided between those who think that there is no alternative to cooperating with the AGC and those who support the substitution programme but do not have confidence in the ability or commitment of the government to following through on the programme by protecting the community.


Colombia: Somos Defensores reports 51 HRDs killed since January 2017

Next week Colombian human rights ngo Programa Somos Defensores will launch a new report, entitled Agúzate, which documents the killing of human rights defenders in Colombia for the period January – June 2017.

The report highlights the fact that despite the peace process and despite the fact that overall levels of violence have decreased, the number of targeted killings of human rights defenders has actually increased.

The report documents the fact that since January 2017, 51 HRDs have been killed up to the end of June. This figure represents a 30% increase over the same period last year. The response of the Colombian government to date has been to maintain the position that these are isolated incidents rather than part of a consistent pattern of paramilitary activity. The basic premise of the report is that given the failure of the state to take action, the only option is for HRDs to organise to protect each other.

Somos Defensores has produced a short video to promote the report which paraphrases the words of a popular song to state – “Wake up – they’re watching us – they’re listening – they’re hunting and killing us”.

Please distribute this video as widely as possible to create awareness of the forthcoming report. Please do what you can by sending it to your media contacts and partner organisations.



Philippines: Indigenous rights defender shot on his way to market

At around 09.00am on the morning of 6 July, Ande Latuan was travelling by motor bike with a female companion, Alang Kaligunan, to bring sacks of corn to the local market, when five members of the right wing Alamara paramilitary group, who have been identified by the eye witness, forced them to stop. Ande Latuan said that if they were going to kill him they should spare the woman. He had just finished speaking when he was shot dead.

The gunmen then told Alang that she shouldn’t report the incident or it would be her turn to die. At that point some other members of the Lumad community, who were also on their way to market by motor bike, arrived and the killers fled. Ande was rushed to hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

It was a week before Alang could bring herself to speak of the killing to a friend who reported it to the police. It turned out that there was already a case outstanding against the five named members of the paramilitary group in Malaybalay City.

Ande Latuan was at least 30 years of age, and a member of the Pigyayungaan indigenous tribal association which has been actively seeking justice for the victims of  the Alamara, who were killed by the group because they were accused of supporting or conniving with the rebel group, the New People’s Army. Pigyayungaan has struggled for many years to protect the ancestral lands of indigenous communities against destructive investment projects that are often backed by the Alamara, who are in effect acting as security for these major investment projects.