14 Afro-descendant, indigenous, and campesino leaders assassinated during the first month of 2019

Bogota, Colombia.  January 29 2019. The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race & Equality) expresses profound concern regarding the alarming number of grassroots social leaders assassinated in Colombia through the end of the first month of the year, a period in which approximately 14 homicides of male and female indigenous people, Afro-descendants, and campesinos were reported.

We emphatically reject and condemn the systematicity of the acts of violence, especially those directed against the Afro-descendant and indigenous populations in the country – peoples who have been historically marginalized and abused due to structural poverty, forced displacement, [and] a lack of access to healthcare, education, employment, and protective guarantees that ensure the integrity of their fundamental rights.

We urge the Colombian State and people to not ignore the number of Afro-Colombian human rights defenders who were assassinated through the end of 2018, which according to the figure reported by the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento [Consulting Office on Human Rights and Displacement] (CODHES) totals 20 homicides (17 men and three women) out of the 54 assassinations of leaders of ethnic communities.

We also demand that the Colombian State undertake efforts to guarantee the lives and protection of those men and women who dedicate their lives to the territory.  Likewise, we issue a special call on the State to provide differentiated protection mechanisms that are necessary for ethnic communities, especially recognizing the impacts suffered by Afro-Colombian and indigenous women who are direct victims of the armed conflict and at a great disadvantage as compared with the rest of the population: in light of not having guarantees of social protection, economic autonomy, or recognition of their rights, their rights are doubly violated.  We demand justice, truth, and guarantees that NO impunity will shroud the lives of the leaders Maritza Ramírez Chaverra (Tumaco), Maritza Quiróz Leiva (Magdalena), and María Ortega (Norte de Santander).  The deaths of these women – who are today victims of the bloody state of violence in the country – leave great voids not only in their families but also in society due to their absence, due to a generalized fear generated by the continuing fight for and defense of human rights in the territory.

With extreme concern we urge the national government to undertake all possible efforts to guarantee there will be NO impunity surrounding the more than 500 homicides of social leaders that have plunged the country into its current mourning.  Likewise, we highlight the need to adopt all possible protective measures to ensure the lives and integrity of the leaders who continue in a state of risk, the reason for which we call on the international community to show solidarity in the face of the national emergency and continue to monitor the grave and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of human rights defenders.

We urge the Colombian government and all social groups involved in making possible the construction of a stable and lasting peace throughout Colombian territory to make dialogue the only legitimate method tor finding a negotiated and peaceful exit from the armed conflict that continues to be latent in the country.

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