Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders in the world, and the country in Latin America where more human rights defenders are killed. Threats against HRDs have reportedly skyrocketed, in a context of high rates of impunity and sustained policy of institutional misuse to try to silence the defense of human rights. These trends and concerns have been documented not only in a recent report launched by ProtectDefenders.eu’s member OMCT on the criminalisation of HRDs, but also are aligned with the conclusions of the country visit of the UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst, on the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia, presented on 4 March 2020 in Geneva. The risk faced by defenders has reportedly increased since the signing of the peace agreement.
Only in recent weeks, new alerts and attacks against defenders have been made public. As regards the situation of media, according to RSF, Colombia (129 in the 2019 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, attacks, and murder. Coverage of such subjects as the environment, public order, armed conflicts, corruption or collusion between politicians and illegal armed groups systematically elicits harassment, intimidation, and violence.
Since its launch in 2015, ProtectDefenders.eu has considered the situation of HRDs in Colombia as a priority and consequently, the EU HRD mechanism mobilises resources in a sustained and intense way to support defenders and organisations to carry out their work more securely. Emergency grants, material support, financing, training, accompaniment, and advocacy, as well as complete temporary relocation initiatives, are coordinated to provide comprehensive assistance to around 300 HRDs in Colombia each year.