At least 122 human rights defenders and civic leaders were killed in the first seven months of the year in Colombia, much more than in the corresponding period of 2021, official sources reported on Friday.
“Between 1 January 1 and 31 July 2022, there were 122 murders of social leaders and human rights defenders,” the Office of the People’s Ombudsman said in a statement. During the same period in 2021, 90 activists were murdered, and over the whole of last year the death toll reached 145, according to the same source.
Twenty-seven of those murdered in 2022 were indigenous leaders.
“The murders of social leaders and human rights defenders represent a serious attack on communities and democracy,” Ombudsman Carlos Camargo is quoted as saying in a press release. “They are the representatives and the voice of the most vulnerable people.”
Social and community leaders, human rights advocates and environmental defenders are targetted by the many armed groups active in rural areas of Colombia, a country that has experienced a resurgence of violence in recent years.
Dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), paramilitary groups and drug traffickers have been designated as the main perpetrators of these attacks. However, they are sometimes committed by agents of the State, according to NGOs.
The worst affected departments are Cauca (19), Nariño (17), Antioquia (12) and Putumayo (11), where armed groups are vying for control of drug trafficking.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists, representatives and other civil society activists, according to NGOs such as the international organisation Global Witness.