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LATIN AMERICA | 18-01-2022 09:33

145 human rights activists killed in Colombia in 2021, says ombudsman

Colombia saw 145 community leaders and rights defenders killed in 2021, a year marked by anti-government protests that were brutally put down, the country's human rights ombudsman said this week.

Colombia saw 145 community leaders and rights defenders killed in 2021, a year marked by anti-government protests that were brutally put down, the country’s human rights ombudsman said Monday.

The toll was lower than in 2020, when 182 killings were registered, the offices of ombudsperson Carlos Camargo said in a statement. 

Those killed in 2021 included 32 representatives of indigenous groups, 16 advocates for rural or agricultural communities, and seven trade unionists. 

"We repudiate these acts that are mainly due to the criminal actions of illegal armed groups," said the statement, without naming the alleged perpetrators. 

Colombia is officially at peace after signing a pact with the FARC guerrilla group in 2016 to end more than a half-century of armed conflict.

But it has seen a flare-up of violence in recent months due to fighting over territory and resources by dissident FARC guerrillas, the ELN rebel group, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.

The regions with the highest number of killings last year were the same in which fighting is fierce over thousands of hectares of drug crops or illegal mines.

Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists, according to observer groups such as Global Witness, which has identified the country as the deadliest for environmentalists, with 65 killed in 2020.

President Ivan Duque's government accuses drug traffickers of being behind the killings in the country, which is the world's largest cocaine producer.

In May last year, violence also marred anti-government protests that were brutally put down by police and soldiers.  

More than 60 people were killed in weeks of clashes and a clampdown condemned by the United Nations, United States, European Union and international rights groups.

– TIMES/AFP

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