Annual Report: Colombia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Colombia 2011

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Head of state and government: Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (replaced Álvaro Uribe Vélez in August)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 46.3 million
Life expectancy: 73.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 30/22 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 93.4 per cent

The civilian population, especially rural and poor urban communities, continued to bear the brunt of the long-running armed conflict. Guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and the security forces were responsible for serious and widespread human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. President Juan Manuel Santos, who assumed office in August, said he would prioritize human rights and the fight against impunity. In marked contrast to the previous government, he adopted a less hostile stand towards human rights defenders. The new government presented legislation on reparation for victims and land restitution, which it claimed would benefit those affected by human rights abuses. However, victims' and human rights organizations expressed reservations about the legislation and human rights defenders and social leaders continued to be threatened and killed. Those campaigning for the return of lands misappropriated during the conflict, mainly by paramilitary groups, were at particular risk. Human rights defenders, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses, and victims and their families involved in human rights-related criminal cases were also threatened and killed.


In February, the Constitutional Court blocked a proposed referendum which could have allowed President Álvaro Uribe to stand for a third consecutive term of office.

The administration of President Uribe waged a campaign to discredit the Supreme Court of Justice, partly because of the Court's investigations into links between members of Congress, including his cousin Mario Uribe, and paramilitary groups. However, relations with the Court appeared to improve under the government of President Santos.

The main guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), suffered another serious setback in September, when the security forces killed one of their historic leaders, Víctor Julio Suárez Rojas, alias "Mono Jojoy", during a military operation.

On 19 October, Congress adopted the International Convention against enforced disappearance.

The internal armed conflict

The warring parties did not distinguish between civilians and combatants, resulting in forced displacement, unlawful killings, kidnappings and enforced disappearances. Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant and peasant farmer communities, and their leaders, continued to be directly targeted by the warring parties. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia at least 122 Indigenous people were killed in 2010.

  • On 28 September, Indigenous leaders María Elena Galíndez and Ramiro Inampués were found shot dead in Guachucal Municipality, Nariño Department. Together with other Indigenous activists, they had been about to start talks with the government on land rights issues.
  • On 17 July, Jair Murillo was shot dead in the city of Buenaventura. He had been co-ordinating the participation of displaced Afro-descendants in a march scheduled to take place in Bogotá the following day. Jair Murillo's organization, the Integral Foundation of the Pacific Coast of Nariño, and other Afro-descendant organizations, had been named in a paramilitary death threat on 14 May.

More than 280,000 people were forcibly displaced in 2010, compared with 286,000 in 2009. Between 3 and 5 million people have been displaced in the last 25 years.

In November, the Human Rights Ombudsman expressed his concern at the increase in massacres in 2010. Paramilitaries and drug traffickers were thought to be mainly responsible.

Several bombings in urban areas, some of which the government attributed to the FARC, killed and injured civilians.

  • On 24 March, a car bomb exploded near the Office of the Attorney General in Buenaventura killing at least nine people and injuring dozens.


There were several important judicial rulings in human rights-related criminal cases.