EL ESPECTADOR, April 13, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Every year, the U.S. State Department examines the situation of human rights in nearly 198 countries. This time, the examination of Colombia included the serious violations that happened during the National Strike in 2021, the growth of the armed conflict, and other matters.

The United States Department of State has published its most recent evaluation of the situation in Colombia. It did that in a document that will serve as a guide for the U.S. Congress when it determines the foreign assistance that it provides to every country. The examination relates to events occurring during 2021 and, as might be expected, the current version includes the serious human rights violations that took place during the National Strike. The following are the key statistics in the report:

Regarding the excesses by the Armed Forces and other irregularities during the Strike

The report begins with the chapter on the arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, and other politically motivated murders. In this section, the evaluation of Colombia states that there are reports that insist that the government or its officials committed this kind of illegal conduct. As an example, the document states, according to Cinep (Center for Research and Popular Education), from the first of January until August 26 of last year, there were 28 reported cases of “intentional killing of civilians, committed by agents of the government”. According to the government and human rights organizations, states the report, uniformed Police officers killed a number of citizens during the National Strike.

“The NGO Human Rights Watch collected information related to the killings committed with munitions. For example, according to Human Rights Watch and press reports, the demonstrator Nicolás Guerrero died of a bullet wound in his head on May 3 in Cali. Statements by witnesses indicated that a Police officer was responsible for that killing. Beginning on July 15, the Attorney General’s Office opened investigations of 28 Police officers for alleged homicides committed during the protests, and two of them were formally charged, relates the report.

Furthermore, the report points out that, according to statistics by human rights organizations, there were 27 reported cases of blows (or beatings) on civilians by the Police. One of those resulted in the death of the demonstrator. In the same manner, the State Department collected data about the registration of at least 14 cases of alleged sexual abuse by uniformed Police officers that happened during the National Strike. According to official reports, 12 Police officers were kidnapped by protesters during the demonstrations of last year.

Murders of human rights defenders

Even though the statistics included by the State Department don’t relate to what happened in 2021, the report talks about the numbers that were collected in 2020. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 133 murders of human rights defenders were registered that year, and only 76 have produced arrests and prosecutions. “The motives for the murders vary, and often it was difficult to determine the principal motive in individual cases,” emphasized the report.

Abuses related to the armed conflict

In this section of the document, the State Department mentions that the three main armed actors are the Clan del Golfo, the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Dissidents of the now-defunct FARC. According to the report, the number of dissidents has increased from 1,500 to approximately 5,200 since 2018. At the same time, the statistics reveal that, since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016 and until September of 2021, 291 signers of the Agreement have been murdered, which left doubts in the United States about Colombia’s actions to guarantee the security of the ex-guerrillas incorporated into civilian society.

In the same way, the report states that the High Commissioner for Peace registered ten deaths and 104 persons injured by land mines between January 1 and September 12 of last year. Regarding forced recruitment of boys, girls, and adolescents, the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF) reported that, between November of 1999 and June 30, 2021, 7,023 minors have been victimized by that.

Violence against women and LGBTI individuals

The report notes that the Colombia Diversa organization reported that, between January 1 and August 1 of 2021, there were 39 homicides of LGBTI individuals, 26 of them of transsexuals. For its part, the Attorney General’s Office is investigating more than 185 attacks on that population, with the predominant attacks being physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. According to the investigator, the majority of those victims are trans women.

With regard to attacks on women, the report notes, according to Attorney General’s Office statistics, 63,000 domestic violence investigations were opened between January and July of last year.

Violations of freedom of expression

According to the document, the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) recorded 99 threats against journalists, in which 117 journalists were intimidated between the beginning of the National Strike on April 8, 2021 and September of that year. FLIP also reported 129 cases of attacks on the press, including 17 illegal arrests. For those arrests, 21 investigations of alleged threats were opened, but there have been no convictions.

Internal displacement

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Efforts (OCHA), the report states that in 2020, only 25,366 people were affected by 94 displacement events. From January to July of 2021, states the document, 48,597 people were displaced in 98 cases. The departments that reported the most cases, according to the report, were Antioquia, Cauca, Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander.

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