IACHR Concerned About Violence Linked to the Actions of Non-State Armed Groups in Colombia

May 20, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about acts of violence linked to the actions of non-State armed groups in Colombia. The Commission therefore calls on the State to step up its efforts to address the underlying causes of the activities of armed groups, and particularly to effectively implement the actions called for in points 1 and 4 of the Peace Agreement.

According to publicly available reports, various armed groups ordered since May 4 a complete halt in economic, social, and political activity in several departments in Colombia, particularly Antioquia, Bolívar, Cesar, Chocó, Córdoba, Magdalena, Norte de Santander, and Sucre. This allegedly had a serious impact on human rights and fundamental rights in at least 178 municipalities. There have allegedly been 24 selective homicides and 15 homicide attempts; 138 effectively confined communities; attacks on 10 local media outlets; 5 attacks on humanitarian missions; 22 attacks on law enforcement agencies, including the murders of two law enforcement officers; threats and harassment targeting civilians; restrictions of the operations of public institutions; store shutdowns and food shortages; and retentions and arson against public transportation vehicles.

The Commission notes what the Ombudsperson's Office has said concerning the effects of the threats of non-State armed groups in the affected areas, which have caused among other things widespread fear among the population. The IACHR is worried about the differentiated impact of this violence on rural Afro-descendant, peasant, and indigenous communities, as well as about the psychosocial effects of these attacks on local residents.

To ensure and protect the rights to life and personal integrity, States have positive duties that are directly linked to citizen security for all people under their jurisdiction. The State of Colombia must therefore take effective preventive action and operational measures that are universal but also pay special attention to particularly vulnerable individuals, groups, and communities.

In this context, the IACHR stresses the need for the State to comprehensively implement the Peace Agreement, in order to strengthen the peacebuilding process and to address the structural causes of violence in the country. In particular, the IACHR notes items in the Peace Agreement concerning comprehensive land reform and efforts to solve the problem of illicit drugs, which seek to mitigate the economic activities that fund the operations of non-State armed groups. An effective practical implementation of these two items involves strengthening economic development in the affected areas and providing basic services in the fields of healthcare, education, and justice, among others, which requires a comprehensive State presence in various territories currently plagued by the actions of non-State armed groups.

The Commission notes that, according to information provided by the State, 35% of all Peace Agreement provisos have been implemented. The IACHR highlights the recent approval of 16 national sector plans linked to topics such as water, health, education, social protection, financial assistance, irrigation and drainage, market access, livelihoods, the right to food, housing, railways, power networks, connectivity, and technical assistance. The IACHR further notes that, according to monitoring efforts made by the Kroc Institute, implementation of the Agreement has been most successful in points 3 (concerning the end of the conflict) and 6 (concerning mechanisms to implement, verify, and confirm progress). The Kroc Institute found that the aspects that are suffering the most significant delays are comprehensive land reform, political participation, and efforts to solve the problem of illicit drugs.

Concerning efforts to solve the problem of illicit drugs, the State told the Commission about the Comprehensive National Plan for Illicit-Crop Substitution (PNIS). The State said it had assisted 99,097 families through the PNIS, with individual illicit-crop substitution agreements in 56 municipalities located in 14 departments around the country. Of all the families who signed up for the PNIS, 76,234 had received immediate food support payments for their sustenance after eradicating their illicit crops, while 75,139 families had received comprehensive technical support. Colombia's Public Prosecutor's Office noted in its third report to Congress about progress made to implement the Peace Agreement that the period 2020–2021 saw a 94% reduction in the budget allocated to implementing point 4 of the Agreement, from 231.4 billion pesos (USD 49.80 million) to 14.1 billion pesos (USD 3.03 million). This reduction particularly affected the PNIS, whose budget fell 96%, from 230.4 billion pesos (USD 49.60 million) to 9.18 billion pesos (USD 1.98 million). Civil society organizations have also reported several instances of non-compliance with the path that had been set for illicit-crop substitution, as well as a reduction in the incomes of the families who signed up for this scheme.

The State must urgently investigate the violence in a serious, impartial way and punish its perpetrators and masterminds, as well as providing reparations for victims and their families. Dialogue with different actors also needs to be strengthened, considering varying conditions on the ground, to ensure joint efforts to implement the Peace Agreement in the country.

Finally, the IACHR is alarmed by these violent events in the context of the ongoing presidential election campaign in Colombia. The Commission calls on the State to strengthen all actions aimed at providing security guarantees for election campaigns and for the election that is set to be held on May 29.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 109/22

4:17 PM