Around 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.
The Office of the People’s Ombudsman mentioned in a statement, “Between 1 January and 31 July 2022, there were 122 murders of social leaders and human rights defenders.”
In the same period in 2021, 90 activists were murdered, and over the whole of the last year the death toll reached 145, as per the same sources.
Twenty-seven of those murdered in 2022 were indigenous leaders.
As per the statement, Ombudsman Carlos Camargo said, “The murders of social leaders and human defenders represent a serious attack on communities as well as democracy. They are the representatives & 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 nation that has experienced a resurgence of violence in the past few years.
Meanwhile, 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, according to NGOs, they are sometimes committed by agents of the State.
The worst affected departments are Cauca (19), Narino (17), Antioquia (12) and Putumayo (11), where armed groups are vying for control of drug trafficking.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous nations in the world for activists, representatives and other civil society activists, as per NGOs such as the international organisation Global Witness.