WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Defenders at Risk: An Update on Colombia’s Peace Process

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Friday, 16 March 2018
1666 Connecticut Ace NW, Suite 400, Washington D.C.

AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

You are cordially invited to join WOLA and Peace Brigades International (PBI) for a discussion on the current human rights situation in Colombia


 Petra Langheinrich,
Peace Brigades International, Colombia

Gimena Sanchez,
Director for the Andes, WOLA

 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Friday, March 16

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
1666 Connecticut Ave N.W., Suite 400

The work of human rights defenders continues to be a high-risk activity in Colombia. An alarming wave of attacks on human rights defenders, particularly community activists in rural areas, continues apace. According to the latest report by Colombian human rights group Somos Defensores, 106 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2017, the first year of the peace accord implementation. Front Line Defenders’ 2017 report documented 312 assassinations globally of which 1 in every 3 occurred in Colombia; making Colombia the most dangerous country for human rights defenders.

So far this year, the numbers are alarming. According to Colombian think-tank INDEPAZ, 36 social leaders have been assassinated thus far in 2018. The persistence of paramilitary structures, the state’s limited response to reported threats against social leaders, and impunity levels for human rights crimes have made Colombia an extremely difficult place for human rights activists.

Despite difficulties, and the unacceptable number of social leaders assassinated, it is important to remain optimistic about the prospects for peace. The peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) promises to be a turning point in Colombia’s history. The peace accords open a window of opportunity—especially for the territories most affected by Colombia’s internal conflict— and offer a promise of protection to social leaders and organizations gone silent in the face of violence and threats.

On Friday, March 16, please join the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Peace Brigades International (PBI), for an update on the current human rights situation in Colombia. We will discuss advancements in implementing the peace process in relation to the ethnic communities most affected by the armed conflict, and steps that can be taken by the international community to monitor these cases and thus ensure that the Colombian government protects these activists from further threats and violence.

Petra Langheinrich is the Advocacy Coordinator at Peace Brigades International for Colombia and the United States. PBI Colombia is an independent non-governmental organization recognized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms. Langheinrich has been working for the last 14 years with different national and international human rights organizations in Colombia; and is an expert on human rights, national and international protection measures, and self protection for social leaders and rural communities.

Gimena Sanchez is the Director for the Andes and the leading Colombia human rights advocate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Ms. Sánchez is an expert on peace and illegal armed groups, internally displaced persons, human rights, and ethnic minority rights. Her work has shed light on the humanitarian situation facing more than seven million internally displaced persons in Colombia; her work has also helped expose the links between Colombia’s government and drug-funded paramilitaries.