Human Rights Council
22 February–19 March 2021
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
The present report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights describes the human rights situation in Colombia in 2020, focusing on security and human rights, civic space, access to justice and the fight against impunity, and inequalities in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also assesses the implementation of the human rights aspects of the peace agreement signed between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army. The report puts forward recommendations to contribute to improving the human rights situation.
1. This report assesses the human rights situation in Colombia between 1 January and 31 December 2020. As per the Final Agreement for Ending the Conflict and Building a Stable and Lasting Peace, signed between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples’ Army (FARC-EP) , the report also examines the implementation of human rights aspects of the peace agreement related to transitional justice, security guarantees, comprehensive rural reform and victims’ rights.
2. In 2020, the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Colombia were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. OHCHR nevertheless continued to monitor the human rights situation and to provide technical assistance to a wide range of State institutions at the national, departmental and municipal levels. It conducted 183 field missions, and held 798 capacity-building activities for State institutions and civil society. OHCHR also collaborated with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council and the Inter-American human rights system.
3. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Colombia issued two decrees, one in March and the other in May, declaring a nationwide economic, social and environmental state of emergency. The preventive isolation ordered to address the health crisis impacted the rights to work, to an adequate standard of living and to education. The health emergency particularly affected populations already vulnerable, such as women and rural Afro-descendant and indigenous people, thereby deepening social inequalities.
4. OHCHR appreciates the measures taken by the State to incorporate a human rights-based approach in its response to the pandemic, reflected in several reports presented by the Government. OHCHR also values the sustained efforts of the Government to address the influx of nearly 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants since 2015.
5. Colombia continued to face endemic violence, despite a reduction of the national homicide rate from 25 to 23.7 per 100,000 persons from 2019 to 2020. In various parts of Colombia, there has been an intensification of violence and increased territorial and social control by non-state armed groups and criminal groups. The National Liberation Army (ELN) responded to the call by the United Nations Secretary-General of 23 March for a global ceasefire, but only for one month. The homicide rates for every 100,000 inhabitants reported by the National Police are particularly alarming in the departments of Cauca (53.71), Chocó (54.31), Putumayo (42.8) and Valle de Cauca (45.17).
6. The lack of a comprehensive State presence in these parts of the country limits the State's capacity to comply with its duty to protect the population, including the right to life, economic, social and cultural rights, access to justice and participation. OHCHR observed that an increased number of massacres and human rights violations against human rights defenders primarily occurred in municipalities with high levels of multidimensional poverty, where illicit economies that fuel endemic violence flourish.
7. By creating five Strategic Zones for Comprehensive Intervention, the Government has sought to start establishing a comprehensive State presence in these areas. The deployment of civilian institutions and authorities is crucial for the prevention of violence and expansion of human rights guarantees.
8. In 2020, the Integrated System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence continued to make significant progress. However, OHCHR is concerned about persisting public statements questioning the suitability of the Integrated System institutions and their staff, and about the legislative proposals to abolish the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).