By The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

We are deeply troubled by the staggering number of human rights defenders killed in Colombia during 2019. According to our records, 107 activists were killed last year, and our staff in Colombia are still in the process of verifying 13 additional cases reported during 2019 which, if confirmed, would raise the annual total to 120 killings. Attacks on human rights defenders had already intensified during 2018, when 115 killings were confirmed by the UN Human Rights Office in Colombia. And this terrible trend is showing no let-up in 2020, with at least 10 human rights defenders already reportedly killed during the first 13 days of January.

We renew our call on the Colombian Government to make a strenuous effort to prevent attacks on people defending fundamental rights, to investigate each and every case and to prosecute those responsible for these violations, including instigating or aiding and abetting violations. The vicious and endemic cycle of violence and impunity must stop. Victims and their families have a right to justice, truth and reparations.

The great majority of the 107 killings in 2019, happened in rural areas, almost all (98 %) in municipalities with illicit economies where criminal groups or armed groups operate, and 86 % of the total number took place in villages with a poverty rate above the national average. While more than half of the killings occurred in just four provinces -- Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca and Caquetá -- murders were nevertheless recorded in 25 different provinces. The single most targeted group was human rights defenders advocating on behalf of community-based and specific ethnic groups such as indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians. The killings of female human rights defenders increased by almost 50 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018.