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Colombia: Human rights being abused under cover of COVID-19

Colombia: Human rights being abused under cover of COVID-19

An elderly man from Micoahumado, South Bolivar, one of many communities affected by threats and violence in Colombia. Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC, 2018.

15 July 2020

Within the context of confinement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, multifaceted violence persists in Colombia, as well as violations of the rights of social leaders, Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant populations.

The first of a series of webinars promoted by DIPAZ, an inter-church platform for dialogue for peace, to encourage multilateral dialogue on the state of human rights and the peace process’ challenges was held on 9 July.

Rev. Douglas Leonard, World Council of Churches (WCC) representative to the United Nations in New York, expressed concern that assassinations have been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an alarming 37% increase in the killing of social leaders and ex-combatants.

“The COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as justification for reducing protections,” he said. “We are concerned about the continued marginalization of Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and rural poor communities. Dialogue, to succeed, must be inclusive.”

There have been recurrent murders, death threats, displacements, forced eradication of illicit crops, and land dispossession in Colombia. Illicit economies create breeding grounds for the operation of armed and criminal groups.

State inaction in addressing underlying injustices has resulted in increased militarization of life in rural areas, with police and military abuses devastating the lives of people and communities.

The webinar highlighted the necessity of creating multi-stakeholder dialogue, with a focus on local realities in relation to the situation of human rights and peace in the rural areas, the challenges faced by regional entities and civil society, and opportunities for reconciliation.

Alina Entelis, from the organization Security Council Report, reminded the participants that every three months the Security Council meets to hear the Verification Mission report on Colombia and that presently all members of the UN Security Council affirm the need to bring perpetrators of violence to justice.

Together with DIPAZ, its member church the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, and several churches and ecumenical partners, the WCC has been working to support the Colombian peace process for many years. In 2019, the WCC has continued to closely monitor and report back to the UN system about the lack of full implementation of the peace accords with the FARC, formerly the largest guerrilla group in Colombia.

"WCC expresses concern about Colombia’s peace process in light of recent killings of Micoahumado community leaders" - WCC news release 24 May 2019

WCC member churches in Colombia

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