Killings of human rights defenders in Colombia decreased in 2021 but remain a concern – NGO

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BOGOTA, May 5 (Reuters) – The number of murders of human rights defenders in Colombia fell to 139 last year, from 199 in 2020, the local defense group Somos Defensores said on Thursday, although it found that overall acts of intimidation and violence had increased slightly.

Despite the drop in killings, the number of cases remains alarming, Somos Defensores said in a report, adding that annual killings of activists remain higher than in the years preceding the 2016 peace accord between the government and the Forces. Revolutionary Armies of Colombia (FARC) demobilized. ).

“The persistence (of killings) is still concerning, given that since 2017 killings have not fallen below 100 cases,” the report said.

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Threats, disappearances and sexual violence – among other targeted attacks against human rights activists – rose to 996 cases last year from 969 cases in 2020, Somos Defensores said.

Colombia’s government – which announced a plan to stem the killings of activists in February last year – blames FARC dissidents who reject a peace deal with the government, National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas ) and criminal groups formed by former paramilitaries of murdering activists. Read more

Last year’s drop from 2020 could be influenced by the lifting of coronavirus restrictions which have allowed rights defenders greater freedom of movement, making them harder for attackers to find, Somos Defensores added. .

The group also warned that murders in the first quarter of this year had risen dramatically to 53 from 28 the previous year.

The number of reported killings of activists in Colombia varies widely depending on the source.

The Andean country’s human rights ombudsman reported in January that 145 social leaders were killed last year, also down from the previous year.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified the killing of 100 social leaders in 2021, it said in a report released in March.

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Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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