Resistance under Attack: Warning Against the Situation of Social Leaders in Colombia

23 May 2019

As 2019 has progressed, the violence, attacks, repression, and killing of social leaders inColombia has become increasingly disheartening. Attacks against women leaders and defenders tend to be crueler. According to Sisma Mujer, in 66% of the cases there was sexual violence and torture prior to the woman’s murder.

In 2018, a woman leader was assassinated every 23 days in Colombia, according to reports from Somos Defensoresand Sisma Mujer. Each year there is an increase in the violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. The 2018 statistics provided chilling picture of in alleged scenario of peace. Last year, there were 805 attacks, includingthe murder of 155 defenders. Compared to 2017, these numbers represent a 43.7% increase in attacks.

Going back to the 2016 signature of the Peace Agreement, over 600 women and men leaders have been killed, hundreds have been prosecuted, and many more have been threatened, persecuted, and displaced. Unfortunately, 2019 has not seen an end to this violence and we see, on the contrary, an increase in the numbers.

In this context, UAF-LAC provided political support to an initiative called the “Humanitarian Refuge for the Life of Social Leaders,” a collective protection strategy coordinated by the organizations. The initiative brought around 2,000 women and men social leaders to Bogotá to demand Government guarantees for their work in the defense of community and territorial rights.

In addition to raising awareness on the crisis gripping Colombia and explaining to those in the capital that true peace has NOT reached the territories, the Humanitarian Refuge served to unite different struggles and collectively construct protection and care practices. Regarding the structures behind the numerous murders, wherein 70% of cases have unidentified authors, the institucional responde have been insufficient.

In spite of this stark reality, a cry to life, joy, and dignified rage rang from the Humanitarian Refuge. The women and men’s voices put a question to all of us, what kind of country do we hope to build?

We want to send a message of solidarity and support to defenderFrancia Márquez, winner of the 2018 Goldman Prize, and those who work alongside her. Last May 4, they were victims of a violent attack, using firearms and grenades, in an attempt to silence their fight. We reaffirm our commitment to the life of women defenders and our full backing for their work. We categorically reject all the attacks and violence against their rights, their political initiatives, and their territories. We URGENTLY call on the national Government to listen to these voices and denunciations.

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