Colombian social leaders remain at risk, July 26 Colombians will mobilize for peace and their protection

Dear all,

Since WOLA’s last update on June 21, the killing of social leaders in Colombia has not relented. We usually include a count of how many more cases we have recorded, but there are numerous varying figures and no official or definitive one. Although most tallies range from 479 to 702 social leaders killed since 2016, the Duque administration has cherry picked the lowest of the bunch (289), contradicting the count of its own Human Rights Ombudsman.

While this number is taken from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, it carries a significant caveat. The OHCHR has the most rigorous process to determine if a victim was a social leader, only reporting their murder after lengthy verification. Therefore, this is not a total number, but only those victims who they have ascertained were social leaders killed because of their leadership actions. Using this as the total number is a manipulation of data, ignoring the back-log of cases the UN has not yet investigated. The OHCHR has explicitly stated this in their annual report, reporting a back-log of 76 cases just this year.

From this disingenuous base line, the Duque administration has boasted a 35% reduction in the murder of social leaders during his first eleven months in office (68 from August 2018 to July 2019) when compared to the same period of time a year prior during the Santos government (105 from August 2017 to July 2018). Aside from the fact that these 68 cases do not represent the total number in this timeframe which has a higher number of pending cases since it is more recent, this analysis completely ignores political context. The peaks in the number of social leader murdered, many of which are political actors, concentrate in the months surrounding elections, making elections a significant confounding variable in this analysis. In the August 2017 to July 2018 time frame, there were congressional elections in March, and first and second round presidential elections in May and June respectably. There were no elections during the first eleven months of Duque’s presidency. Therefore, not only is the general decrease of murders debatable at best, but attributing it to government action is purposely misleading.

The reality is that areas of historically high conflict are backsliding into violence while the social leaders mending war-torn communities and implementing the peace accords are bearing the brunt of it. On July 26, WOLA will march along with thousands of Colombians in 29 Colombian cities Connecticut and Q St. and 28 cities around the world in defense of peace and protection for social leaders. We encourage you to join us this Friday, July 26 at 5:30 p.m. outside the Dupont Circle Metro Exit and to express your support on social media with the hashtags

#MarchemosPorLosLideres and #DefendamosLaPaz.

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Wola July 25 by Anonymous UeGxFwA on Scribd

Imagen: El Espectador.