Human Rights Defenders
Due to their work in the prevention of gross violations of human rights and in the struggle against impunity, as well as for their work monitoring and criticizing public policies on human rights, human rights defenders directly confront those who commit these crimes, whether armed groups, political authorities or economic sectors. Over recent years, people who defend human rights have been and continue to be the victims of frequent murders and violent attacks, systematic smear campaigns and false accusations, threats, forced disappearances, sexual violence and unfounded criminal proceedings.
• In 2010, 32 human rights defenders were killed, most of them in the second half of the year. A recent report highlights the killings of 29 defenders during the first 6 months of 2011
• There has been an increase of 126% in attacks on human rights defenders if we compare the first half of 2011 with the same period in 2010
• In the first half of 2011, 18 leaders were killed who were struggling for the restitution of land that had been violently stolen from them and their communities
• 24 trade unionists were murdered between January and August 2011.
• According to the International Campaign to Defend Human Rights in Colombia, between December 2009 and December 2010 at least 130 defenders were subject to arrests and criminal proceedings
• In 2009 it was discovered that the Colombian State systematically carried out illegal acts of intelligence against defenders, sometimes using their own protection mechanisms to persecute them. For this reason, among others, in 2011, several defenders returned their State protection mechanisms; for fear that these mechanisms could be used against them.
In September 2009, Margaret Sekkagya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, made an official visit to Colombia, and concluded in her final report that "the patterns of harassment and persecution against defenders and their families persist in Colombia." She also identified serious deficiencies in the National Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders coordinated by the Ministry of Interior and Justice in Colombia.
In 2008, the European Union approved the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders, in order to establish a strategy to improve the actions of the EU in support of defenders.
The European Union and its Member States can play a decisive role in the protection and human rights defenders in Colombia. It is essential to:
• Carry out ongoing assessments of the implementation of the European Union Guidelines on human rights defenders, in consultation with a wide and diverse range of organisations and human rights defenders, and develop with them a new local implementation plan in Colombia
• Continue to permanently include in the Dialogues on Human Rights and Political Dialogue with Colombia, the issue of the situation of human rights defenders. Insist that the Colombian state demonstrate measurable progress in implementing the recommendations of the United Nations system including the Universal Periodic Review, and the five points of the defenders campaign (see above)
• Ensure that the focal point for human rights defenders is easily accessible to them, and that close relationships of trust are built with organisations to monitor the fulfillment of human rights
• Take part in field missions, particularly those organized by human rights defenders, to verify the human rights situation in Colombia. The agenda of such missions should always include a sufficient period of time to permit an appropriate discussion with human rights organisations.
• Issue public statements of support for the fundamental and legitimate work of human rights defenders in Colombia.
For more information see briefing paper attached
This information also exists in French (see joint document) - Cette information existe également en français (voir document ci-dessous)