Human Rights in Colombia

The dimensions of a grave human rights crisis in Colombia have long been misunderstood and ignored. Fuelled by inequity and injustice, the South American country has been in the midst of an internal armed conflict for more than 40 years. This ongoing conflict pits state security forces and paramilitaries, who often collude with them, against guerrilla groups.

The conflict has been marked by extraordinary levels of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, with civilians by far the principal victims. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Thousands more have been subjected to enforced disappearance or abduction. As many as 5 million people have been forced to flee for their lives. The conflict has also been marked by forced recruitment of child soldiers and widespread sexual violence against girls and women.

Fighting in Colombia has provided a useful cover for those seeking to expand and protect economic interests. More than 60 percent of displaced people in Colombia have been forced to flee areas of mineral, agricultural or other economic importance and millions of hectares of land have been appropriated, mostly by paramilitaries. Indigenous Peoples, together with Afro-descendent and campesino farming communities continue to bear the brunt of violence, despite their determined efforts not to be drawn into the conflict.

There are compelling reasons for Canadians to be concerned about what is happening in Colombia, not the least of which is the contentious Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement that came into effect in August 2011. It has coincided with vigorous promotion by our government of Canadian investment in resource extraction projects on Colombian soil.

Amnesty International Canada continues to advocate for credible, independent assessment of the human rights impacts of the trade deal and to call on Canada to ensure that trade and investment do not trump human rights.

We work hard to make visible and support the courageous efforts of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendent communities to defend their rights amidst threats to their very survival.

Our activists are also engaged in a variety of creative initiatives to defend other women and men on the dangerous front lines of the struggle for human rights in Colombia – be they members of women’s organizations seeking justice for survivors of sexual violence, trade unionists defending the rights of workers, or peace activists who have suffered horrendous persecution as they seek to protect their children from the armed conflict.

Your activism can help us make a difference. Join us!

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