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Colombia: Ongoing violence against human rights defenders

flag-gc352defe4_640 partners have received with deep concern the information about the armed attack and the murders of two human rights defenders in the department of Cauca: Argenis Yatacué, professor, Sa’t We’sx (ancestral authority) of the Nasa indigenous people and member of the Indigenous Regional Council of the Cauca (CRIC), and Beatriz Cano, social communicator and member of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos del Norte del Cauca (ACIN), who accompanied the Nasa indigenous people in the defense of their rights and their territory.

On 9 June 2021, Argenis Yatacué and her partner Marcelino Yatacué, residents of the Media Naranja village, in the Páez de Corinto reservation, were killed by a group of armed men at the entrance to the urban area of ​​Corinto. The attackers left a sign next to their bodies with the message “For the death of Cortico. ELN”.

On 4 June 2021, the car in which Beatriz Cano was traveling in the municipality of Santander de Quilichao was attacked by a group of armed men who were traveling in a van and who had fired minutes before at the police facility in the same municipality. She died three days later, on 7 June 2021, in the city of Cali. Her 5-year-old daughter and hers, her companion, César Galarza, as well as community member Floresmino Tróchez, both members of ACIN, traveled with her. All of them were seriously injured during the attack. At the time of publication of this information, they were admitted to the same clinic where Beatriz Cano died.

The murders of Argenis Yatacué and Beatriz Cano are added to that of the 7 human rights defenders murdered since 1 January 2021 in the department of Cauca, of which three have been women and two of them indigenous, as well as the 1,173 murders of defenders and social leaders in Colombia since the signing of the Peace Accords in 2016.

Furthermore, the partners have been informed about numerous assaults, armed attacks, acts of intimidation and threats against human rights defenders in Cali and the municipality of Jamundí (Department of Valle del Cauca), and in Bogotá, in connection with the National Strike which began in Colombia on 28 April 2021. What started out as protests against a tax reform bill introduced by Iván Duque’s government, expanded following the bill’s withdrawal, fueled by widespread discontent about serious abuses and human rights violations committed by the Colombian police force against protesters. The protests have been accompanied by calls for reforms to the health system and demands for compliance with the 2016 Peace Agreements.

Colombia – ranked 134 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index – continues to be one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for journalists, who are still the frequent targets of death threats, physical attacks, abduction and murder. Coverage of such subjects as the environment, public order, armed conflicts, corruption or collusion between politicians and illegal armed groups elicits systematic harassment, intimidation and violence. Journalists also continue to be permanently threatened by “bacrims,” gangs of former paramilitaries now involved in drug trafficking.