HRW asks Colombia for “additional efforts” in the defense of social leaders

The director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), José Miguel Vivanco, said Friday that the Colombian state must “make additional efforts” in defense “not only individual but also collective” of the country’s social leaders, after the murder of more than a hundred of them in 2019.

“Social leaders do an anonymous work to promote peace, human rights, access to land … those are values ​​that must be promoted in Colombia, the State must make additional efforts not only in what it is the individual but also collective defense of these, “said Vivanco in Bogotá.

The regional director of HRW delivered today on the Senate Peace Commission data on the murder of social leaders in Colombia, where since the beginning of the year more than twenty have been killed, according to non-governmental organizations.

The United Nations Office for Human Rights reported two weeks ago in Geneva that at least 107 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia during 2019 and, according to their data, another 10 died in the first 13 days of 2020.


Given the rebound in the murders and threats against social leaders, Vivanco proposed as a structural measure that the Government allocate more “investment” in matters of “education, health, employment”.

He also insisted on looking for mechanisms to stop this “scourge” because “these leaders are part of Colombia and are trying to restore values ​​that are essentially democratic.”

“There should be no discussion or doubt about what it means to protect the life and integrity of those leaders who live in paths or hamlets, because they are not just great leaders, they are people who often do anonymous work,” he added.

The HRW manager said that for reasons linked to “land conflicts or efforts to get out of the illegal economy,” social leaders in the country suffer “threats, persecution and even murder by local mafias.”

“What happens in Colombia is serious, in Arauca (east), of seven municipalities, five are intervened by illegal groups,” said Vivanco, who precisely this week presented an HRW report on the “unpunished” action of criminal groups in that border region with Venezuela.


On the alleged illegal listening that Colombian military intelligence exerted on opponents, journalists and even generals of the same Army, scandal revealed this week by Semana magazine, Vivanco reiterated that “they not only violate the right to privacy but basic foundations of the rule of law “.

“It is not possible for public officials to use instruments that have been designed for the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime and obtain information in violation of the privacy of politicians, magistrate journalists and civil society for unspeakable purposes,” he said.

He pointed out that “the purposes of these listeners are still unknown”, he lamented that “in Colombia these scandals occur” and asked “to stop them so that they do not continue with the impunity to which unfortunately the opinion in Colombia is almost accustomed “.

The director for the Americas of HRW advanced on Wednesday that the organization will make “all the necessary steps” in Washington to establish whether equipment donated by the United States was used in the illegal listening of the Army.

Vivanco also proposed to the senators of the Peace Commission to sign a joint rejection of “the impact on press freedom”.

Among those attending the Peace Commission were Senators Carlos Lozada, of the FARC party; Ivan Cepeda, of the Democratic Pole; Jhon Milton, from Colombia Justa Libres; and Paloma Valencia, from the Democratic Center.


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