Threats against human rights defenders in Colombia

Who we wrote to

The president of Colombia.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned over the high personal risk faced by human rights defenders in Colombia.

It’s been reported that human rights defenders have been increasingly targeted because of their work to protect their collective land rights against bogus claims to their territory. 

We’re alarmed that these human rights defenders have suffered numerous attacks by neo-paramilitary groups in various regions in Colombia, which seems to be a new development following the 2016 Peace Agreement.

Some recent cases include the:

  • death of human rights defender José Merlín Murillo, member of the group Comunidades de Autodeterminación, Vida, Dignidad (CAVIDA)
  • death of human rights defender Mario Castaño Bravo on 26 November 2017
  • increase in threats against human rights defenders in the territory of Jiguamiandó, including Elías Antonio Úsuga Duque, who was reported to have forcibly disappeared on 18 November 2017 and then reappeared alive on 23 November 2017
  • death threats received by human rights defender Danilo Rueda, and lawyer Daniel Prado
  • attempted assassination, allegedly perpetrated by members of a neo-paramilitary group, against Germán Graciano Posso

What we asked for

We urged the relevant authorities to:

  • guarantee the safety of all lawyers and human rights defenders in Colombia
  • ensure that appropriate investigations are carried out into the murders of the human rights defenders José Merlín Murillo and Mario Castaño Bravo
  • make sure that appropriate enquiries are made into the cases involving the community members Elías Antonio Úsuga Duque and Willington Cuesta in the territory of Jiguamiandó
  • carry out thorough investigations in the case of the attempted killing of the community leader Germán Graciano Posso, of the Peace Community in San José de Apartadó
  • end all acts of threats and harassment against lawyers and human rights defenders so that they can carry out their work without retaliation or risk to their personal safety
  • comply with the country’s obligations under regional and international law


October and November 2017 – Danilo Rueda is the victim of three acts of intimidation

11 to 14 October 2017 – José Merlín Murillo disappeared from the collective territory of La Cacarica in the Bajo Altrato region. He was later found dead

28 October 2017 – Willington Cuesta was allegedly threatened by paramilitary groups

18 November 2017 – Elías Antonio Úsuga Duque forcibly disappeared

23 November 2017 – Elías Antonio Úsuga Duque reappeared

26 November 2017 – Mario Castaño Bravo was killed in the territory of the community La Larga Tumaradó in Urabá

29 December 2017 – Germán Graciano Posso survived an assassination attempt allegedly perpetrated by members of a neo-paramilitary group

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