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Colombia: Human Rights Update - December 2020

The year 2020 was the most violent in Colombia since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, with widespread attacks on social activists, trade unionists and former guerrillas in the peace process.

The figures released by the INDEPAZ human rights NGO make for shocking reading. During the calendar year, 309 social activists and human rights defenders were killed (totalling 1,109 since the peace agreement was signed) and 64 FARC former guerrillas were killed (249 in total). There were also 90 massacres which claimed the lives of 375 people. Additionally, state security forces killed at least 78 people.

There is little to suggest that Colombia’s human rights crisis will ease in the year ahead without drastic action from the Colombian government and international community. So far, sufficient action has not been forthcoming.

Below is a summary of cases of violence in December 2020.

N.B. This article does not claim to provide a definitive list of all human rights violations committed in Colombia. Various others are likely to have been committed during the period. 

1 December – Indigenous activist and guard Omar Bisbicús was killed in the zone of El Tinde as he travelled to Tumaco in southwest Colombia’s Nariño region. According to local testimonies, the 25-year-old is the ninth member of the community killed this year and the 18th person of Awá descent. 

3 December – Environmental defender Javier Francisco Parra Cubillos was murdered in the region of Meta. Javier was coordinator at the Macarena Sustainable Development organisation. He was shot several times and died in hospital in the regional capital, Villavicencio.

3 December – Indigenous leader Miguel Tapí Rito was killed in Bahía Solano in the Chocó region of western Colombia. He was governor of the indigenous communities of El Brazo and Bacura Purru.

3 December – Inga indigenous activist John Chicaiza Chindoy was murdered in Nariño, southwest Colombia. He was the husband of Martha Ortiz, who is president of the Community Council of La Viña.

3 December – A father and his one-year-old son were killed in Bolívar, department of Cauca. Armed men reportedly entered their home and shot them dead, while also injuring the baby’s mother. The family had arrived in the community four months earlier. It was the fourth killing in the same day.

4 December – African-Colombian social leader Guildon Solis Ambuila was killed in Buenos Aires in Cauca. In the days leading up to his death, he had been supporting victims of two massacres committed in the vicinity this year. According to the INDEPAZ human rights organisation, Guildon is the 90th activist killed in Cauca this year and the 280th overall in Colombia.

4 December – Indigenous youth activist Darwin René Bisbicús was murdered in Ricaurte, Nariño.

4 December – Paramilitary group Comandos de la Frontera issued threats against several social leaders in Puerto Asís, department of Putumayo. Those named in threatening pamphlets included Sandra Lagos, who coordinates illegal crop substitution programmes under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement, and other members of the ADISPA sustainable development association; human rights defenders Yuri Quintero and Wilmar Madroñero; and political representatives Andrés Cancimance of Colombia Humana and Yule Anzueta of the Green Party.

5 December – Indigenous community member Juan Carlos Petins, 45 years old, was killed in Paéz, Cauca. Juan Carlos belonged to the Nega Cxhab Belalcázar community, where he managed communications services.

5 December – Cauca’s third murder in less than 24 hours was committed in the zone of Caloto. The victim was 31-year-old indigenous activist Eduardo Pino Julicue, the son of a former leader in the ACIN indigenous organisation, Luz Eida Julicue.

5 December – Peasant farmer Tiberio Valencia, 43 years old, was murdered in Morales, Cauca, while with his son in a public establishment.

6 December – At least four people were killed in Colombia’s latest massacre which was carried out in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca. Armed men entered a farm property in the Gualanday zone and opened fire on those inside. Among the victims were FARC former combatant Fernando Trochez Ulcue and his brother David Trochez. Fernando had been based at the reincorporation zone ‘Carlos Perdomo’ and is the 245th FARC member killed since the signing of the peace deal in November 2016. Indigenous community activist and musician Carlos Escue, who organised youth workshops in the Munchique reservation, was also killed. The final victim was identified as Emerli Basto.

6 December – Community leader Joaquín Antonio Ramírez, who belonged to the Pacific Community Council Cimarrónes de Cisneros, was killed in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca.

7 December – Social leader Julio Velásquez was murdered in Tauramena, department of Casanare. Julio was president of the Community Council in the Paso Cusiana zone.

7 December – At least eight people were injured after armed men attacked a Wayúu indigenous community in Manaure in Colombia’s northernmost region of La Guajira.

7 December – The ONIC indigenous organisation, Colombia’s main such body, issued an emergency alert over a mass displacement of more than 900 members of at least four Embera indigenous communities in Bahía Solano, Chocó. The alert warned of major humanitarian and health repercussions, due to the volatile situation combined with the pandemic. The displacement was carried out in the same area where Embera leader Miguel Tapí Rito was killed on 3 December.

8 December – The bodies of brothers William Andrés and Jhonathan Hurtado Martínez were found in Argelia, Cauca, with signs of torture. They had recently arrived in the region from Nariño, which has also seen high levels of violence. A third person who was with them when they were last seen remained missing.

9 December – 24-year-old LGBT and human rights activist Danny Chacón was murdered in El Bagre, Antioquia. Armed assailants opened fire on a group of people who had congregated in the evening, killing Danny and wounding Danny’s cousin.

9 December – Peasant farmer William Garcés, 20 years old, was found dead in Argelia, one day after the bodies of brothers William Andrés and Jhonathan Hurtado Martínez were also found there.

9 December – Lawyer Freddy Agustín Barragán, 52-years-old, was killed while driving in Cucutá. He worked for the National Ombudsman’s office in the Norte de Santander region.

10 December – 57-year-old Henry Antonio Díaz and his son, 26-year-old Jhoan Sebastián Díaz Bueno, were murdered in Mercaderes, Cauca.

10 December – Three people were killed in a massacre in Gualandayes in the region of Casanare. Among the victims was Fernando Heredia Ruíz, the 246th FARC former guerrilla murdered since the signing of the peace agreement four years ago.

11 December – Four people were reportedly killed in a massacre in El Bagre, Antioquia, two days after LGBT activist Danny Chacón was killed in the zone. The attack was attributed to paramilitary successor group Los Caparrapos.

11 December – Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Betancur García was murdered in Yolombó, Antioquia. She was a coordinator in the National Network of Communal Women. INDEPAZ said her death was the 290th murder of a social activist in Colombia in 2020.

12 December – Colombia’s 83rd massacre of 2020 was committed in Caucasia, Antioquia. Around 50 armed paramilitaries in camouflaged uniforms arrived by boat in the village of Cuturú at around 1.30am. Three people were killed, two injured and one reported missing during the incursion.

12 December – Lucero Ninca and her son Brayan Ninco were murdered in Maní, Casanare, after armed men opened fire in a public establishment. A third person, Nasli Dayana Groso, was injured in the attack.

13 December – Nasa indigenous guard Freiner Lemus, who was 22 years old, was killed after being shot several times the village of Guadualejo in Paéz, Cauca.

13 December – The 84th massacre of 2020 was committed in the community of Alaca, La Guajira. Four Wayúu indigenous people were killed.

17 December – Community leader Jesús Serna Sierra, 55 years old, was murdered in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia. His wife is president of the Community Council in the village of La Esperanza. Armed assailants shot him dead in his home, with reports that a 97-year-old was also injured. In 2020, Bajo Cauca has seen 12 massacres and 26 murders of social leaders. Human rights groups based in Antioquia said that the government had failed to tackle paramilitary groups in the region.

18 December – Franco Salamana Hoyos, a councillor for the Independent Social Alliance (ASI) party in the San Sebastián district of Cauca, was murdered in nearby Timbío. Franco was a member of the PUPSOC human rights organisation, the COCCAM association for coca growers and the Patriotic March social-political organisation. He was travelling by chiva bus from the regional capital, Popayán, when armed men intercepted the vehicle and forced him off before killing him. He is the 296th social activist murdered in 2020, according to INDEPAZ.

18 December – FARC former guerrilla Luis Eduardo Triana was murdered in La Macarena, department of Meta. He was shot dead while riding a motorbike. He is the 247th former guerrilla killed since the signing of the peace process.

20 December – The husband of a town councillor was murdered in Bella Vista, Cauca. Einer Meneses was married to Diana Paola Pajajoy, a councillor in the municipality of Balboa. Armed men shot 34-year-old Einer at the door of the couple’s home. They reportedly demanded Diana’s location and attacked him when he refused to tell them.

21 December – The 87th massacre of 2020 was carried out in Santa Marta, northern Colombia. The three young victims were Breiner Escobar, Ana Paulina Acosta and Pedro Torres Velásquez.

23 December – Journalist Felipe Guevara Henao was killed in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, having previously received threats. He was a legal reporter at the Q’Hubo newspaper. His partner is pregnant with their first child.

23 December – In yet another massacre, three people were killed in the Chapinero zone of Neiva, southern Colombia. One of the victims, Mesías Pajoy Sabogal, was a former guerrilla in the FARC, who had withdrawn from conflict in 2010.

23 December – Indigenous leader Mauro Nastacuas survived an attack in Tumaco, Nariño. He is the governor of the Santa Rosita indigenous community.

23 December – Indigenous activist Fablio Armando Guanga Quistial was abducted from his home and then killed in Tumaco, Nariño. He was a member of the Awá community El Gran Rosario.

24 December – Town councillor Pedro Alejandro Pérez Doria was murdered in San Pelayo, Córdoba. He was attacked while having lunch with companions.

25 December – Peasant farmer and environmental defender Roberto Eduardo Parra was killed in Mesetas, Meta. He had received threats over his campaigning against deforestation and land appropriations in the region. He is the 305th social activist murdered in 2020.

26 December – Five members of the same family were killed in the 90th massacre of 2020, including FARC former guerrilla Rosa Amalia Mendoza Trujillo and a baby. The attack was carried out in Montecristo, department of Bolívar. Rosa was based at the ETCR reincorporation zone Juan Carlos Castañeda in Remedios, Antioquia. She is the 249th FARC member killed since the peace agreement was signed in late 2016.

27 December – Teacher and human rights defender Luis Alberto Anay Ruiz was found murdered in Tumaco, Nariño. He had been missing since going fishing five days earlier. Luis organised education programmes for children in rural communities.

28 December – FARC former guerrilla Manuel Alonso Villegas was murdered in Miranda, Cauca. He is the 249th FARC member in the peace process killed.

28 December – Trade unionist Omar Moreno was murdered after armed men intercepted the taxi in which he was travelling between Llorente and Pasto in the southern department of Nariño. Omar belonged to the SINTRAGRIM trade union for agricultural workers in Meta. SINTRAGRIM is affiliated with FENSUAGRO, which has seen more members killed in recent years than any other trade union. He was a member of the Patriotic Union political party and had survived the violent targeting of its members during the 1980s and 1990s which killed thousands of people.

30 December – Trade unionist and activist Norbey Antonio Rivera was killed in Popayán, the regional capital of Cauca. Norbey belonged to the ASCAMTA union for agricultural workers in Argelia, Cauca, and was the partner of councillor Nancy Santacruz, who previously had been displaced from Argelia after receiving threats.

31 December – 22-year-old nurse Carolina Duque was killed after armed assailants opened fire at the ambulance in which she was travelling. The attack took place in Yolombó, Antioquia. The attackers escaped on a motorbike.