Colombia: Authorities must investigate killings of community leaders and take urgent action to protect human rights defenders

Colombian authorities must take urgent measures to protect human rights defenders and launch a prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the recent killings of two community leaders who opposed a hydroelectric project in Colombia’s Antioquia region, said Amnesty International today.

“The Colombian authorities must take immediate and effective action to end the relentless wave of threats and attacks that has claimed the lives of more than 170 human rights defenders since the signing of the Peace Agreement in November 2016,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Those who put their lives on the line to defend the environment, territory and access to land are in particular need of protection. These devastating efforts to silence the brave people standing up for their communities cannot be allowed to continue.”

Those who put their lives on the line to defend the environment, territory and access to land are in particular need of protection. These devastating efforts to silence the brave people standing up for their communities cannot be allowed to continue
Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

On 8 May, unidentified assailants killed Luis Alberto Torres Montoya and his brother Duvián Andrés Correa Sánchez while they were working in the fields in an area known as El Pescadero. Luis was an active community leader and a member of the Association of Artisanal Miners and Fishermen of Puerto Valdivia. Six days earlier, unidentified assailants killed Hugo Albeiro George Pérez, another community leader in Puerto Valdivia.

Luis and Hugo were part of the Antioquia Ríos Vivos Movement that has publicly opposed the construction of the Hidroituango hydroelectric dam due to the environmental damage that it has caused in the area. They had both sought compensation for local families whose land and farming activities have been adversely impacted by the project.

“The authorities must launch a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the killings of Hugo Albeiro George Pérez and Luis Alberto Torres Montoya, taking into account their roles defending the rights of those affected by the Hidroituango hydroelectric project. They must also immediately implement effective measures to overcome the structural causes behind the threats, killings and attacks faced by community leaders who oppose this project.”

The authorities must launch a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the killings of Hugo Albeiro George Pérez and Luis Alberto Torres Montoya, taking into account their roles defending the rights of those affected by the Hidroituango hydroelectric project.
Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

Last year was reportedly the deadliest on record for human rights defenders in Colombia, with 121 killings, more than double the number recorded in 2016.

On 8 May, Amnesty International relaunched its Unprotected Peace campaign to urge the Colombian authorities to protect human rights defenders and raise awareness of the dangers they face.