In 2016, the Colombian government and the FARC-EP (Colombia’s then largest guerrilla group) signed a peace agreement with the goal of ending 50+ years of armed conflict. Victims of State crimes were centered in the agreement, in line with the commitment to truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition. Since its signing, community-based movements, social leaders, and entities like the Colombian Truth Commission have worked tirelessly to uncover the truth, build historical memory, and put mechanisms in place to ensure the ‘no repetition’ of past atrocities. As an organization committed to dismantling state violence in the Americas and an analysis of the role that U.S. intervention plays in emboldening conflict, in 2020, SOA Watch staff collaborated on the report for Colombia’s Truth Commission, From the Beginning to the End: The United States in the Colombian Armed Conflict.
Five years after the signing of the agreement, its implementation has been far from successful. In fact, Colombia has become the world’s deadliest country for environmental and human rights defenders with 177 murdered in 2020 — more than half of the 331murders documented globally. In 2021 for example, there were 96 massacres with 338 victims, according to Colombian organization Indepaz. The violence is continuing into 2022 — in January alone, 14 social activists and three former FARC combatants were murdered, and 13 massacres were committed. At least two were environmental activists, one of whom was just 14 years old.
With legislative elections this month and presidential elections in May, our community-led Colombian partners have expressed concern over the increased violence and have asked for widespread support to protect different communities. In response to this request for support, SOA Watch has a staff member in Colombia and will be collaborating closely with Colombian frontline organization CONPAZCOL (a network of more than 140 Black, Indigenous, small-scale farming, and LGBTQI frontline organizations and communities defending their communities and land) and FOR Peace Presence (a Colombian-based and led human rights accompaniment organization).