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Human Rights in Colombia

Colombia is a country rich in biodiversity, natural resources and fertile lands. Nevertheless, millions of its citizens live without access to drinkable water, sufficient food, dignified living conditions, electricity or an adequate health service. Colombia is the 6th most unequal country in the world. Around 6 million hectares of land have been violently taken from rural populations (indigenous peoples, afro-descendent communities and subsistence farmers), which has in turn encouraged the implementation of large-scale economic projects such as agrofuels and mining. Small scale agriculture for the subsistence of rural communities has not been promoted by the state authorities.


The internal armed conflict in Colombia has existed for over half a century. The main victims of the war are the members of civil society, who survive amidst constant violent actions at the hands of the different actors in the conflict. The massive human rights violations carried out against the Colombian Population include massacres, killings of human rights defenders, forced disappearances, torture and sexual violence. The Colombian state, which has the duty to protect its citizens, is questioned for having committed serious human rights violations and infractions of international humanitarian law (IHL), and some sectors of the state are being investigated for links with illegal paramilitary groups. The guerrillas are also accused of committing serious infractions of IHL, such as hostage-taking, using land mines and recruiting minors as combatants.


The humanitarian crisis in Colombia has reached alarming levels. According to official sources and human rights organisations alike, there are more than 4 million internally displaced people in Colombia, or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. United Nations and indigenous organisations have warned that at least half of the indigenous peoples in Colombia are at imminent risk of disappearing from the planet. Trade Union organisations have reported that Colombia is the country with the highest number of trade unionists killed in the world every year. It is of particular concern that impunity in cases of human rights violations stands at around 98%. Year after year, the UN and the OAS issue recommendations to the Colombian state, yet they have not been significantly implemented.


In the midst of the grey and desolate panorama of war, Colombian civil society continues to offer a range of colourful alternatives, demanding that their human rights are fulfilled, proposing multiple forms of peaceful resistance, and calling for peace via a politically-negotiated solution to the armed conflict based on social justice.