The International Office for Human Rights Office-Action Colombia (Oidhaco) coordinated a shadow report with a coalition of sixty-seven international coordination groups and organizations, including The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). The “Report of International Coordination Groups and Organizations for the Universal Periodic Review of Colombia 2023” was published on June 28, 2023, and contains an update on the human rights situation in Colombia from 2018-2022.
During those five years, there have been significant political changes in the country, three different governments, and three years marked by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Human rights defenders and social leaders continue to be attacked, threatened, and killed in record numbers despite the signing of the 2016 Peace Accords with the FARC-EP.
Some of the main findings in the report include the gender differentials related to the implementation of the Peace Accords, the dire security situation for human rights defenders in Colombia, and the many challenges the national land restitution processes face. The report provides updates on the following themes:
By the end of the Duque Government in 2022, only 30 percent of the provisions of the 2016 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) had been implemented. Notably, Comprehensive Rural Reform has been the least implemented point. There was an escalation in violence related to the armed conflict reported between 2018 and 2022, mostly impacting the departments of Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander, and Nariño.
The report shows that the Search Unit for Missing Persons (UBPD) experienced slow progress during the period of review, and that various cases of killings by law enforcement officers and extrajudicial killings were documented. Contrary to the Duque administration, the current Government has been more willing to move forward with peace talks with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN).
Human rights defenders in Colombia who work in business contexts remain at risk as several extractive megaprojects have been implemented between 2018 and 2022. This violates the fundamental right to free, prior, and informed consultation as stated in the Colombian Constitution. These projects, alongside Colombia’s high inequality in land tenure, exacerbate the right to land and territory, food, and water for its citizens, and have presented many challenges in terms of land restitution processes.
Security for human rights defenders has collapsed. Human Rights Organizations ask for progress on applications of collective protection measures, as the report indicates protection measures provided by the State through the National Protection Unit (UNP) are insufficient. Trade unionists and journalists continue to be major targets as well.
The report shows that in areas of land dispossession, narco-trafficking, and other extractive activities, women- particularly Black and Indigenous women and adolescents- are at greater risk. Gender-based Violence (GBV) prevails in rural zones where armed groups have control. The gender indicators in the FPA have progressed minimally, with the greatest delays in Comprehensive Rural Reform and Political Participation.
The high levels of impunity in prosecuting crimes against women contribute to the lack of protection of women, gender discrimination, and gender inequality in Colombia. The report highlights the recommendation from The Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-repetition (CEV) to avoid impunity in transitional justice, as it prevents effective prosecution of serious violations of human rights and international law.
On March 1, 2023, the report was presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process created by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Currently, the Petro administration has shown its commitment to initiating dialogue with other armed groups, implementing social reform, and environmental protection, all of which rely on the full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement with the FARC-EP. The international community should take advantage of this opportune window in advancing peace and human rights in Colombia.
To view the entire report, download it here.