A new wave of massacres poses a serious threat to peace in Colombia

Citizens mourning the victims of a massacre Citizens mourning the victims of a massacre Contagio Radio

14 October 2020

The Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in the country reports a surge in mass killings in recent months

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Colombia, presented to the Security Council members the latest report on the work of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. According to the 90-day report, which covers the period from 27 June to 25 September, violence continues unabated in several areas with an  increased number of attacks from armed groups targeting civilians and members of the former FARC-EP. In particular, Mr. Ruiz Massieu highlighted that “some of the areas that suffered immensely during the conflict continue to be besieged by violence from other actors who keep attacking social leaders, human rights defenders, former combatants and entire communities”. These developments are posing a serious threat to the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement signed between the government and the country’s main rebel group, the FARC-EP.

During the reporting period, the mission verified the killings of 18 former FARC-EP members, bringing the number since the beginning of the year to 49. Moreover, violence against communities and social leaders also remains prevalent and occurs mostly in rural departments with limited state presence and in which  illegal armed groups operate. As of 25 September, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 42 incidents in 2020 in which civilians were killed, and 13 more are currently being verified. The UN Verification Mission also noted an increase in violence against human rights activists, including ethnic minorities and women. In total, more than 230 people have been slain in massacres this year in what appears  to signal a new chapter in the country’s long history of bloodshed.

Illegal armed groups and criminal organizations are also taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 28,000 lives in Colombia, to strengthen their social and territorial control. For this reason, Mr. Ruiz Massieu said that finding ways to curb the violence is imperative and would enable Colombia to focus all efforts on coronavirus relief. He concluded by urging the Colombian government to finalize and implement a public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups, criminal organizations and their support networks. This is the only way to deliver on the promise of the Peace Agreement.


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Author: Michele Pitta; Editor: Timo Knaebe

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