U.N. Blasts 'Staggering Number' Of Human Rights Defenders Killed In Colombia

Jan 14, 2020

Colombia’s half-century-long civil war was fought mainly in its rural areas. And that’s where implementing the peace process that was signed a few years ago is most urgent. But on Tuesday the U.N. reported that’s in jeopardy — because a new kind of violence is terrorizing those regions.

The U.N. High Commission for Human Rights gave a grim assessment of Colombia’s peace progress. It said it’s “deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia” last year: as many as 120.

Rights activists are considered crucial to the success of Colombia’s peace process in the poor rural zones that were hardest hit by the civil war. But armed criminal groups that have largely spun off the right-wing and left-wing armies of that conflict consider the activists a nuisance.

The U.N. commission said 10 rights advocates have been killed in just the first two weeks of this year. It called on Colombian President Iván Duque to make a more serious effort to prevent the murders.

Duque — who visited South Florida’s large Colombian community last fall — blames former Marxist guerrillas for stoking the violence. The guerrillas blame former right-wing paramilitary members — and Duque for doing too little to implement Colombia’s peace agreement.