Violence against Colombian refugees prevents return to lost lands
Colombia? It´s getting better isn´t it?
That´s the most common question I hear about Colombia. And it is true, if you are a foreign tourist or investor, if you are a Colombian participating in the economic growth which is the envy of many other nations. It’s true, life for many is getting better.
But it´s a different story and a different direction for Colombia´s some five million internal refugees displaced by more than a half century of violence.
Leaders of the displaced continue to be murdered by powerful groups who would rather kill than return land to its proper owners. And leaders of those seeking their land continue to be killed with almost complete impunity, according to a report this week by Human Rights Watch.
“Prosecutors have made important advances in some cases, such as the March 2012 killings of Manuel Ruiz and his son Samir Ruiz, in which four suspects were charged within roughly a year,” the human rights group noted in The Risk of Returning Home: Violence and Threats against Displaced People Reclaiming Land in Colombia.
“As of August 2013, of the 49 cases of killings of IDP land claimants and leaders that the Attorney General’s Office reported it was investigating, prosecutors had obtained convictions in eight cases and charged suspects in an additional seven.”
The administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santo has received international applause for its Land Restitution Law, allowing victims to reclaim land lost to paramilitaries, guerrillas and organized crime through a quasi-judicial process.
Problems is the killings continue and few cases are investigated let alone prosecuted or result in convictions.
“Unless Colombia delivers justice for current and past abuses against land claimants and makes substantial progress in dismantling paramilitary successor groups, the threats and attacks will continue—and the Santos administration’s signature human rights initiative could be fundamentally undermined,” the report stated.
Since January 2012, Human Rights Watch has documented more than 500 cases of violence or threats against land claimants.
“The threats and attacks are entirely predictable given Colombia’s chronic failure to deliver justice for both current and past abuses against IDP claimants”
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