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Colombia human rights update October 2021

Source: JFC

As Colombia’s President Iván Duque, while attending COP 26 in Glasgow, received praise and a warm
welcome from world leaders such as Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau,
there was no attention paid to the horrific human rights crisis which has engulfed Colombia throughout
Duque’s governance.
Despite multiple alerts in many parts of the country over paramilitary violence, there has been little
effective action taken to tackle the endemic violence. By the end of October 2021, according to the
INDEPAZ human rights NGO, over 1,200 social activists and close to 300 former FARC combatants in
the peace process had been murdered since the agreement’s signing almost five years ago.
Several former combatants and activists were murdered in October, while there were widespread
reports of state brutality towards communities demanding state compliance with the terms of the peace
agreement. Women, indigenous and African-Colombian activists were among those killed in October.
Here is JFC’s monthly update on cases of human rights violations carried out in October 2021.
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 October – Community activist Patricia Pérez Ríos was killed in the zone of Ciénaga in Magdalena,
northern Colombia, just one month after her husband was murdered there. 30-year-old Patricia was an
organiser in land claims for communities which had previously been displaced.

4 October – Indigenous social activist Rubén Darío Valencia Chico was killed in the Buenos Aires zone
of Cauca, southwest Colombia. He was a community organiser in the reservation Las Delicias.  

5 October – Former FARC combatant Duberney Gómez Rodríguez was murdered in Leiva in the
southwest region of Nariño.

5 October – Rural activist Jorge Antonio Loaiza was murdered by paramilitaries in the southern region
of Putumayo. Jorge coordinated environmental protection programmes in communities in the zone of
La Perla de Amazónica. Reports said he was accosted by armed men close to his home, who tied him
up before killing him. His murder occurred despite a heavy presence of security forces in the region.  

5 October – 38-year-old Osvaldo Enrique Hernández Zuñiga was killed in Maicao in the northern
region of La Guajira. He was an education department official in the Maicao municipal council and a
delegate of the community council for the town’s Erika Beatriz neighbourhood. The attack was carried
out during the afternoon by two armed assailants on a motorbike.

7 October – Armed assailants attacked the home of social activist Arnobis Zapata in Montelibano in the
northern department of Córdoba. They assaulted his 14-year-old son and a friend who were playing
outside the house, before fleeing. Arnobis is a leader in the ANZORC peasants organisation, in which
he has coordinated crop substitution programmes created in the 2016 peace agreement. He has
previously received death threats and survived an attack in 2016 when gunmen opened fire at his
home, incidents which forced him to leave the region.

8 October – In a shocking incident which made headlines, a 12-year-old and an 18-year-old were
found dead after they were accused of shoplifting in Tibú, northeast Colombia. The two were seen on
mobile phone video with their hands bound with tape in a clothing store, as a group of people discussed
handing them over to local authorities to avoid harm coming to them. However, the two youngsters,
who were reportedly Venezuelan, were found the next day with gunshot wounds to the head and signs
bearing the word ‘ladron’ (thief). Reports said that armed men had arrived at the store and taken the
youngsters despite the store’s owner offering to go with them instead.

9 October – Former FARC combatant Ruber Herney Dorado was killed in the Balboa zone of Cauca,
southwest Colombia, which statistically is Colombia’s most violent region, with more murders of social
activists and former combatants than any other part of the country. Ruber was a member of a local
cooperative supporting the peace process. According to the Comunes political party – formerly the
FARC party created in the peace agreement – the attacks on Ruber and Duberney Gómez Rodríguez a
few days earlier mean that 288 former combatants have been killed since the agreement was signed
five years ago, with 39 cases in 2021. However, before the latest attacks, the United Nations
Verification Mission in Colombia put the total figure at 292 in late September.

14 October – Another former FARC combatant in the peace process, María Steffania Muñoz Villa, was
murdered in Buenos Aires, Cauca, where she had been based at the transitional zone La Elvira. Her
partner, former FARC combatant Yorbis Valencia Carabalí, was killed nearby in June. At around
8.40am, armed assailants attacked María as she walked with her young niece in the village of
Mazamorrero. The girl survived. María is the 40 th former combatant murdered in 2021 and the 289 th
since the signing of the peace agreement in November 2016.

14 October – Community organisations reported that police were impeding the recovery of dead
bodies found in the Cauca River in the regions of Risaralda and Caldas. Over the previous month and a
half, eleven bodies were found in the river, generating high levels of concern among local residents.
When a group of fishermen tried to recover bodies, several of which were missing heads and hands,
they were assaulted and insulted by police officers. One witness said that the police were seeking to
maintain favourable statistics for their departmental reviews.

15 October – A 55-year-old indigenous community leader, María Lina Pedroza Isarama, died after
stepping on a landmine in Alto Baudó in the western department of Chocó. María was a member of the
Embera indigenous community of Puerto Alegre la Divisa Nauca. African-Colombian and indigenous
communities in Chocó are at high risk from conflict between several armed groups and the region has
seen escalating levels of forced displacement and confinement.

15 October – Former FARC combatant José del Carmen Ovallos Pérez was killed in the village of
Monte Ioro in Norte de Santander. He was based at the transition zone Jorge Eliecer in the zone of
Tibú, where a JFC delegation visited in 2018.

16 October – The second murder of a former FARC guerrilla in under 24 hours was carried out in
Florencia, department of Caquetá. The victim, Jorge Eliecer Garzón Manrique, was attacked in a public
establishment by two assailants on a motorbike.

18 October – Rural activist Efren España was killed near his home in Argelia, Cauca. He belonged to
the ASCAMTA peasant farmers association.

18 October – Two men were found dead in Argelia, on the same day Efren España was killed there.
They were killed after reportedly attempting to flee an armed group which had previously recruited them

19 October – Indigenous leader Luis Alfonso Narváez was murdered in La Vega, Cauca, as the
department went through a brutal wave of violence. He was brutally attacked at his home in the village
of El Guayabo. He campaigned for victims’ rights, had served terms as an elected local representative
and was an activist in the Polo Democrático political party.

19 October – Also in Cauca, in the zone of Puerto Tejada an attack on an unnamed man killed his
three-year-old daughter. The man survived with injuries.

19 October – Four young people, including at least one under the age of 18, were killed in an attack in
San Rafael, department of Antioquia. Jeison Santamaría, James Santamaría, Santiago Cobo and
Santiago Guarín were attacked while rapping and dancing in a street cultural performance. Three died
at the scene and another later in hospital. The INDEPAZ human rights NGO said it was Colombia’s 77 th
massacre of 2021.

19 October – There was an attack on the family home of Jhoan Sebastián Bonilla, a young man killed
in National Strike protests in July this year. Reports said that an unidentified man fired at least three
shots against the home in Cali’s Comuna 16 neighbourhood. Jhoan’s mother and brother were inside at
the time of the attack but were not injured. Human rights groups have accused police of involvement in
the young man’s killing, while also warning of risks and threats to the family.

19 October – Social activist Rogelio López Figueroa was murdered in Cajibío, department of Cauca.
He belonged to several social organisations, including the ANZORC peasant farmers association, the
Patriotic March movement and the COCCAM peasant farmers association, which has seen more than
30 members killed since the peace agreement was signed in 2016. As with many other cases, his
armed assailant was riding a motorbike.

21 October – Hundreds of families were forcefully evicted from makeshift accommodation in Brisas de
Fertilizantes, a neighbourhood in the city of Barrancabermeja. Reports said that over the past four
months, between 300 and 600 families had established a humanitarian camp to highlight deteriorating
social conditions. Following a judge’s ruling, ESMAD riot police attacked the families and, in several
cases, prevented them from taking their belongings.

23 October – At around 7pm, armed assailants killed three people in the city of Buga in the Valle del
Cauca region. The victims were named as Hernán David Orozco Narváez, Jhon Jefferson Salazar and
an 11-year-old girl, Mabelin Serna Castro.

24 October – Three people were killed in a massacre in the Alfonso López neighbourhood of Cali.
Around ten people were gathered in a public space when at least three motorcycles approached and
their riders opened fire.

25 October – Yet another killing was committed in Cauca’s Buenos Aires zone. The victim was Noel
Corsini Zuñiga who coordinated voluntary crop substitution programmes created in the 2016 peace
agreement. He belonged to the COCCAM coca growers association. According to INDEPAZ, he is the
145 th social activist murdered in 2021.

26 October – The 81 st massacre of 2021 claimed three lives in Maicao, La Guajira. Armed assailants
intercepted the victims and shot them dead in the Rojas Pinilla neighbourhood.

26 October – Soldiers forcefully repressed peaceful protests over the military build-up in Santa Barbara
de Iscuandé in Nariño. Rather than address longstanding community requests to address the lack of
basic services and poor infrastructure in the region, authorities have deployed the military to stifle social
demands. At least one person was injured by police gunfire.  

27 October – Human rights defender David Pérez Arias reported having received a number of
paramilitary death threats alongside students and staff members based at the Eafit University in
Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, over their support for National Strike protests earlier this year.
He was previously assaulted on a Medellin street in August.  

28 October – Social organisations reported that for at least two weeks security forces had been
repressing peasant farmers in Anorí, Antioquia. Local communities were protesting against the army’s
forced eradication of coca plantations, a procedure which undermines the 2016 peace agreement’s
focus on community-led substitution programmes. Police were firing over the heads of protesters, with
reports that a number of peasant farmers had been injured in the preceding days. Social organisations
called for the terms of the peace agreement to be upheld and farmers supported to remove illegal

28 October – Agents in the ESMAD riot police unit violently assaulted two boys aged 14 and 16 in the
Usme district of Bogota. The assaults took place while the ESMAD was repressing peaceful protests
over poor social conditions and the absence of any significant response by authorities. The mother of
the 16-year-old, who was named as Haiber Hernández, said police shot her son in the face with a
teargas cannister even though he was not involved in the protests. Social media footage also showed
ESMAD agents shooting 14-year-old Jeison Castro with a munition at close range as he was walking
away from them without posing a danger. He required hospital treatment following the attack.

30 October – African-Colombian community activist Edinson Valenzuela Cuama was murdered in
Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca. He coordinated community-focused sports and cultural initiatives.
Intruders shot him several times in his home. He is the 146 th social activist killed in 2021.

31 October – Fighting between security forces and members of an armed group forced several families
to abandon their homes in Argelia, Cauca. At least seven people were injured, including a 13-year-old
boy, while landmines and gunfire presenting a serious risk to local communities. The Mission to
Support the Peace Process (MAPP), a branch of the Organization of American States, ‘expressed deep
concern’ over the impact of fighting on civilians in the zone.