Frontline Defenders Annual Report for 2017

On 22 January 2018, Front Line Defenders launched their Annual Report on Human Rights Defenders at Risk in 2017. In this annual report, Front Line Defenders documented cases of HRDs from 27 countries worldwide. The report makes for shocking reading, especially regarding the situation of HRDs in Colombia. It highlights that 80% of the documented killings of HRDs were in just four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. Below is a summary of the evidence related to Colombia.

Front Line documented 312 HRDs killed globally in 2017 – of these 30% were Colombian (94 defenders killed) and 212 were killed in the Americas. This means that:

44% of all defenders killed in the Americas were Colombian
nearly one in three defenders killed globally was Colombian.

Whilst homicides in general have decreased in Colombia since the signing of the Peace Accord between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the number of killings of HRDs has dramatically increased, with most of the defenders dying at the hands of neo-paramilitary or ‘unidentified’ armed actors.

Land and Human Rights Defenders

67% of defenders killed globally were engaged in the defence of land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights and nearly always in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.

Land has been at the root of Colombia’s armed conflict. Without the full implementation of rural reforms promised in the Peace Accord, alongside the dismantling of neo-paramilitary and other armed groups, it is likely that this pattern of killing of those defenders working on land and victims’ rights will continue.

Business and Human Rights Defenders

Despite Colombia having a National Action Plans on Business and Human Rights, Front Line Defenders found that in cases involving land and mega-projects “countries, governments and security forces were, at best, unresponsive to threats and attacks faced by HRDs and, at worst, state security forces were themselves responsible for the killings.” (page 6)

Although the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie, launched a Framework for Business and Human Rights in 2008, Frontline Defenders found that:

"…international investors and parent companies, whose funding and support initiated and enabled [mega projects, extractives and other big business projects], still do not regard local community leaders and HRDs as key actors to consult when planning projects. This lack of consultation increases the risk of confrontation further down the line and it denies companies early warning signals when conflict in local areas does emerge…

State Responsibilities

Front Line reports that globally, there was a weak response from both national governments and the international community in relation to threats, attacks and killings of HRDs. In 84% of killings, Front Line documented a lack of response from the State to information they had received in relation to previous threats, where they considered, “if preventive action were taken … at an early stage, attacks against HRDs could be dramatically reduced” (page 6).

Impunity for acts of violence against HRDs continues to enable an environment of frequent killings. Among those cases for which Front Line Defenders has collected data, only 12% globally resulted in the arrest of suspects.

Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and LGBTI

The number and frequency of attacks against WHRDs also rose. Threats and attacks they receive often include elements related, not only to their work, but also to their gender. A gendered dynamic to the targeting of WHRDs was prevalent in every region documented by Front Line defenders (page 7).

  • In April, a friend of peasant farmer HRD Marylen Serna Salinas was abducted and sexually assaulted by three unidentified men in Popayán, Colombia. The men stated the reason for the attack was Marylen’s work (page 13).
  • Children of WHRDs were also threatened, as was the case with the daughter of Maria Leonilda Ravelo Grimaldo in Colombia, who had a gun pointed at her by two men on a motorcycle (page 7).
  • WHRDs also experienced discrimination from within the human rights movement when they challenged cultural and social norms as part of their human rights work (page 7).

During the course of the year, Front Line Defenders also received reports of an alarming increase in homophobic and transphobic attacks in Colombia (page 13).

Criminalisation of Defenders

  • Filing baseless lawsuits against HRDs was still one of the most common strategies used by both governments and non-state actors. Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico accounted for most of the cases reported to Front Line Defenders in 2017

Cyber Attacks

  • Throughout the Americas, there have been persistent reports of cyber attacks targeting HRDs’ work. Most common have been distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. In 2017, Front Line Defenders documented such attacks in Colombia.

Frontline defenders documented the following defenders as killed in COLOMBIA

Mario Castaño Bravo
Mario Jacanamaijoy
Albert Martinez Olarte
Ramon Alcides Garcia Zapata
Eliecer Carvajal
Liliana Patricia Castaño Montoya
Miguel Angel Cardona
Ofelia Espinoza De Lopez
Oscar Ferney Tenorio
Jorge Luis Garcia del Rio
Luis Villadiego Puentes
Juana Almazo Epiayu
Nelson Eduardo Velandia Ortiz
Maritza Yuliana Garcia Vinasco
Jose Adalberto Torrijano Andrade
Javier Sevilla Alvarez
Roberto Ortega Maclauslan
José Yimer Cartagena Usuga
Gildardo Antonio Valdés
Luis Edilson Arango Gallego
Fabián Aberto Álvarez Marín
Liliana Astrid Ramírez Martínez
Ezquivel Manyoma
Jimmy Humberto Medina Trujillo
Wilmer Hernández Caicedo
Jairo Arturo Chilito Muñoz
Luis Fernando Gil
Hector William Mina
María Efigenia Vasques
Manuel Ramírez Mosquera
Fernando Rivas Asprilla
Aulio Isararama Forastero
Eugenio Rentería Martínez
Alberto Román Acosta
Katherine Escalante Castilla
Narda Barchilón
Ricardo Córdoba
Iván Martínez
Wilmar Felipe Barona
Efren Santo
José Reyes Guerrero Gaitán
Carlos Augusto Paneso
Daniel Felipe Castro Basto
Jairo Arturo Muñoz
Jesús María Morales Morales
César Augusto Parra
Alciviades de Jesús Largo Hernández
Carlos de Jesús Báez Torres
Eberto Julio Gómez Mora
Miguel Emiro Pérez
José Jair Cortés
Emigdio Dávila
Aldemar Parra García
Miguel Ángel Hoyos
Eberto Julio Gómez Mora
Wilfredy González Noreña
Albenio Isaias Roseo Alvarez
Edenis Barrera Benavides
Fabian Antonio Rivera Arroyave
Eder Cuetia Conda
Falver Cerón Gómez
Hernando Murillo Armijo
Jorge Iván Bigamá Ogarí
Emilsen Manyoma
Edmiro León Alzate Londoño
Wiwa Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela
Edilberto Cantillo Meza
Ruth Alicia Lopez Guisao
Javier Oteca Pilcué
Deiner Alexander Mendez Berrío
Diego Fernando Rodriguez
Eliver Buitrago Gutierrez
Luis Genaro Ochoa Sánchez
Camilo Alberto Pinzon Galeano
Rubiela Sánchez Vargas
Idaly Castillo Narváez
Severino Grueso Caicedo
Jose Maria Lemus Téllez
Nelson Fabra Díaz
José Reyes Guerrero Gaitán
Álvaro Arturo Tenorio Cabezas
Mario Andrés Calle Correa
Jorge Arbey Chantre Achipiz
Jáider Jiménez Cardona
Nolberto Lozada Ramón
Gerson Acosta Salazar
Bernardo Cuero Bravo
Mauricio Fernando Vélez Lopez
Segundo Victor Castillo
Ezequiel Rangel Romano
Washington Cedeño Otero