Press Release

IACHR Examines Progress and Challenges in the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia

March 6, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - In a context in which human rights defenders in Colombia are facing increased threats and killings, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) participated in a workshop on promoting and protecting defenders’ work in that country. The Commission’s participation in this workshop is part of its activities to support the process to implement the Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The workshop, organized by the State of Colombia, took place on February 22, 2017, in Bogotá and included the participation of government authorities, civil society representatives, and the Chief of the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process. IACHR Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Rapporteur for Colombia and Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, spoke at the event on behalf of the Commission. The IACHR thanks the Colombian State for the invitation to participate in this important forum for inter-institutional dialogue and discussion.

“It provided a very good opportunity to examine the progress made and the challenges faced by Colombian institutions to promote and protect the work of human rights defenders,” Commissioner Orozco Henríquez said.

The IACHR Rapporteur also met with the Deputy Attorney General of Colombia, María Paulina Riveros Dueñas, who apprised him about the Office of the Attorney General’s new policy on prioritizing investigations into rights violations committed against human rights defenders, among other relevant issues. The Rapporteur reiterated that complying with the obligation to diligently investigate violations against human rights defenders is an important step for prevention and non-repetition.

The Rapporteur took the opportunity of his visit to Bogotá to hold a meeting with civil society organizations that work to defend human rights. The organizations raised a series of concerns related to the implementation of the Peace Agreement and, in particular, to the safety of human rights defenders.

“The role of human rights defenders in the transition to peace in Colombia is essential and of utmost importance,” Rapporteur Orozco Henríquez said. “That is why it is critical for the State to strengthen prevention and protection systems for this group,” he indicated.

In addition, on February 23, 2017, the IACHR held five working meetings in Bogotá on precautionary measures handed down by the Commission. These measures were granted to protect: Iván Velásquez; 179 families from the villages of El Vergel and El Pedregal, in Cauca; members of the Corporación Justicia y Dignidad; members of the National Union of Food Industry Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de Alimentos, Sinaltrainal); and four Wayúu indigenous communities based in the department of La Guajira. The purpose of the meetings was to facilitate dialogue and improved implementation of these precautionary measures.

The Commission appreciates the State of Colombia’s openness and collaboration in making the workshop and meetings happen. The Commission also thanks civil society for its participation. Through these activities, the IACHR received information that is extremely important for the fulfilment of its mandate. The Inter-American Commission will continue to monitor the situation of human rights defenders and closely follow the process of implementing the Final Agreement.

A principal, autonomous body of the OAS, the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 023/17