Beyond the Numbers

programa somos defensores

Human Rights Defenders at risk – who are the people who have been victim to the aggressions?

The change of the national government in Colombia has created much expectation in the country especially within political sectors, including human rights and social circles, because of the new government’s moderated, conciliating and inclusive political tone. This new environment has permitted continued exchange between human rights movements and the central government as well as the resumption of certain initiatives such as the National Table of Guarantees for social defenders and leaders of the country.

As a result, it was predictable that in the first 10 months of the Santos administration, the numbers of aggressions against human rights defenders and social leaders would decrease as a result of the improved political environment. Nevertheless, reality can overcome any expectation. Far from decreasing, the statistics show an increase of aggressions against human rights defenders in Colombia, which directly contrasts with the political environment. Murdered, threatened, detained, jailed, exiled human rights defenders in Colombia have been victims of crushing violence: in the first half of 2011 alone, 29 human rights defenders have been assassinated.

All of these people lost their lives for their work, knowing that they could be killed given the specific regional contexts in which they acted, the danger that their work defending human rights, being social leaders, defending their right to land, etc. and given the threats they had received. They also lost their lives due to a lack of physical protection, and more importantly, a lack of political protection from the Colombian state. It is here where the difference between discourse and action lay. While the government shows advances regarding human and workers‘ rights, in order to be certified by the international community – thus gaining access to commercial treaties and agreements armed groups in Colombian continue to murder, threaten, displace and disappear.

But who are these people who have been victim to these aggressions? Mining, peasant, community, student, union, Afrocolombian, environmental, LGBT and displaced leaders, as well as human rights lawyers are those, amongst others, who have sadly died in 2011, defending their own rights, those of their communities and organizations, and those of others. Every which one of them had a name, a face and a life: they were someone’s children, someone’s brother or sister; others were grandparents, parents, mothers, husbands and wives. In 29 homes in Colombia there is an emptiness left by the violent loss of these defenders.

This is in homage to their bravery, the bravery they had to travel the path of human rights protection in Colombia, knowing full well that their lives could be cut short. As many Colombians recognize, Being a human rights defender

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