In 2012, a human rights advocate in Colombia was reportedly assaulted every 20 hours and assassinated every five days.
The NGO “Somos Defendores” (We are Defenders) released its annual report on human rights advocacy in Colombia last week, and the news was not good.
There was a 49% increase in individual assaults on human rights advocates (HRAs) in 2012 compared to 2011, and of the total number of attacks, 19% resulted in a homicide and 14% in physical assault. While the majority of attacks came in the form of threats, 69 HRAs were murdered and 50 were beaten.
The director of Somos Defensores, Diana Sanchez, said that this was partly due to a flawed government protection strategy.
“The [government] policy focuses on physical protection [for HRAs], but protection goes far beyond the physical, and there also needs to be a focus on prevention and policy measures…[like] the research and monitoring of those actors which are targeting different sectors of society,” Sanchez told Colombia Reports.
Sanchez pointed out that many of the HRAs most at risk are in remote and troubled areas, particularly the Colombian departments of Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Choco, Cauca and Antioquia.
While Sanchez did state that the government has engaged — and continues to engage — in disucssions over how best to tackle the precarious position of HRAs in Colombia, she said that so far it has “failed to provide a political climate which prevents agression towards [human rights] leaders.”