During the last months we have been repeatedly alarmed about the dramatically increasing rates of threats and attacks against human rights defenders in Colombia. Since the start of 2018, over 100 Human Rights defenders have been killed. Seemingly, the situation has become even more violent, during and after the presidential elections, with the new president coming into office this week. 24 human rights leaders were killed just between the months of June and July, averaging almost one human rights defender per day. The number even spiked in the first week of July with nine Human Rights Leaders killed in only four days.
These developments have impacted our work on the ground. We have received a steady increase of general and emergency petitions to walk with and advocate for the safety of social activists and communities, who receive threats, or even attacks. During a visit to Colombia last week, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst expressed his concern about these increasing assassinations of Human Rights Defenders, and highlighted their crucial role in constructing peace in Colombia. Alberto Brunori, the Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) in Colombia, also stressed that the situation for human rights defenders is very serious.
These human rights defenders are our hope for peace in Colombia! We would like to share at least a few lines about some of them, who do stand for many, knowing that their doings can never be resumed so shortly.
On May 11th and 12th, FORPP participated in a humanitarian mission to the Naya River, along with our partners the Intereclesial Commission of Peace and Justice and CONPAZ, as well as the other accompaniment organizations PBI and Witness for Peace. We went to observe the current threats faced by the communities along the Naya River.
We were saddened to hear that Anlly Paola Guzman passed away April 12th in Medellin in the early hours of the morning due to complications after surgery. The death of Paola, only 17 years old, was very sudden and unexpected. Her funeral was held in La Unión and hundreds of people attended the vigil and funeral. We are heartbroken by this loss, and frustrated by the various forms of State violence that continue to impact the lives of the Peace Community.
FOR Peace Presence turned 15 years old in 2017. Throughout these past years, we have learned valuable lessons, made lasting relationships with incredibly brave human rights defenders and grown as an organization. We are proud to remain committed to protecting land, life and dignity in Colombia, and providing protective accompaniment to some of the most at-risk and marginalized communities throughout the country. Our partners continue to be a source of inspiration for us on a daily basis. Their committment to peace has demonstrated the power that nonviolence and strong communities have to create real, lasting change for future generations in Colombia.