EL ESPECTADOR, November 25, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

According to the data registered by the We Are Defenders Program, during the first six months of 2022, on average every two days a leader committed to the defense of rights was killed in a violent manner.

The comprehensive data continue to be worrisome. Just between January and September of this year, 145 people who defend human rights in this country have been murdered. That doesn’t count the cases of attacks, threats, attempts, displacements, forced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests and false charges.

The data were presented this Friday by the We Are Defenders Program, and they show the panorama of a phenomenon that, even though it seems to be made available to public opinion less and less frequently, it continues to be present and seems to be getting worse. In the third quarter of this year alone (between July and September) there were 182 attacks on 178 defenders and leaders. In total, 46 were killed and 26 of the killings took place in the period of the current administration, meaning between August 7 and September 30.

Regarding that last number, the quarterly bulletin of We are Defenders points out that “the murders are taking place in spite of the fact that there are policies that are trying to guarantee the lives and safety of defenders and social leaders. That shows that for the selective violence to be checked, we will need time and some other activities that will help overcome the violent acts against defenders. We will need to check the violent dynamic of the reconfigured armed conflict.”

In its general outlook, the analysis reveals that the departments that in recent years have registered a resurgence of the armed conflict, and a re-composition and strengthening of armed actors disputing territorial control, are the departments where the most cases of attacks on leaders occur. Cauca, Antioquia, Arauca, Putumayo, and Nariño continue to have a high and worrisome number of attacks.  Curiously, those departments are the ones that have the highest level of military intervention.

In the view of the Program, what this shows is that “strengthening the military presence in the countryside in the last 4 years of the Duque administration’s defense and security policies did not succeed in reversing the tendency to kill social leaders and rights defenders.”

Here are some of the findings in the report:

Overview of killings of social leaders in this country

From July to September of 2022, there were 182 attacks on 178 rights defenders and leaders:

37 in July

69 in August

76 in September

In total, there were 46 killings, 106 threats, 20 attacks, two forced disappearances, three forced displacements, four false prosecutions, and one arbitrary arrest.

Overview of the first six months of 2022

99 defenders were killed in the first six months of 2022.

The first six months of 2022 present the highest number of killings ever registered by the We Are Defenders Program, in comparison with the same period in previous years.

Just compared with the first six months of 2021, there was an increase of 71% in the number of cases, which exceeded the number registered in the first six months of 2020 when there was a large increase in attacks during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when 95 killings were verified.

The departments where the highest number of killings took place were

Cauca (11 cases)

Antioquia (10 cases)

Putumayo (10 cases)

Arauca (9 cases)

In Cauca the presence of several organized post-Agreement groups was identified (Jaime Martínez, Dagoberto Ramos, Secunda Marquetalia) and the ELN, and the groups were involved in combat to gain control of the countryside, especially in the municipalities in the northern part of the department.

In Putumayo the violence has been concentrated in two municipalities in Bajo and Medio Putumayo, particularly in Puerto Leguízamo and Puerto Guzmán. There is a strong presence of post-Agreement groups, the Primary Carolina Ramírez Front and the Bolivarian Commandos of the Frontier.

In Antioquia the armed actors identified are the AGC, the Caparrapos, 11 Fronts of the ELN, three post-Peace Agreement groups, and the Clan Isaza group.

In Arauca the risk of combat is between the ELN and Fronts 10 and 28 of the post-Peace Agreement groups. It’s estimated that since the events at the beginning of the year and during the whole first six months, more than 300 people have died violently.

The majority of the killings, 88%, were committed with firearms.

The manner in which the killings were committed was found to consist of three kinds of events:

A group of armed men arrive at the homes of the defenders and kill them there; sometimes they seize them forcibly and commit the crime somewhere else.

Hired killers; the defenders are intercepted by one or more people traveling on motorcycles.

The bodies are found hours later in places such as homes or workplaces, making it more difficult to understand the details of the killing.

In 69 of the 99 cases, those responsible for the killing are unknown.

In the other cases, armed groups such as the post-Peace Agreement groups, paramilitaries, ELN, criminal alliances, and the Armed Forces are identified.

Nine leaders were killed as part of massacres; most of those cases were registered in the Departments of Putumayo and Tolima.

Of the 99 confirmed cases, 9 killings were preceded by forced disappearance.

In four cases, torture was part of the crime. The distinctive feature is that the victims in all four cases were women, or LGBTIQ+. Three were women, one was a trans woman, and the fourth case was against a male activist in the LGBTIQ+ community.

The killing of three of these people was said to be because of their gender, i.e. motivated by their sexual identity (two were feminicides).

The community leaders are the most affected by the killings; 30 of those killed were officers of Community Action Boards (JAC in Spanish). That represents a 200% increase compared with the same period in the previous year, with 20 more cases.

Regarding ethnicity of the leaders that were killed, 30 were indigenous and three were Afro-Colombian.


During the first six months of 2022, 29,729 people were victims of massive displacements, with 43% of those affecting people in Nariño.

19,210 people were affected by forced confinement, and 57 of those were in Chocó.

377 injuries were by explosive artifacts, and 199 of the injured were civilians. Cauca was the region most affected.

61 cases of forced disappearance, of which 15 were minors.

According to an analysis by the International Red Cross (CICR in Spanish) there are now six armed conflicts going on in this country:

  1. Between the government and the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
  2. Between the government and the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC).
  3. Between the Colombian government and the different groups of post-FARC or Dissidents.
  4. Between the ELN and the AGC.
  5. Between two post-FARC tendencies: those who didn’t take part in the Final Peace Agreement and the Second Marquetalia
  6. Between the post-FARC organizations that didn’t take part in the Peace Agreement and those known as Commandos of the Frontier-EB3
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