The defence of human rights is a high-risk activity in Colombia

Between 2009 and June 2013, 219 human rights defenders were assassinated in Colombia[1].

Despite the advances, normative material and physical protection, each year aggressions against human rights defenders increase: in 2010, 174 aggressions (32 assassinations) were registered; in 2011 there were 239 aggressions (49 assassinations); in 2012 there were 357 aggressions (69 assassinations); in 2013 there were 366 aggressions (78 assassinations); in 2014 there were 626 aggressions (55 assassinations); and in the first quarter of 2015 there 295 attacks against human rights defenders (19 assassinations).[2]

Many of the human rights defenders who have received the most threats are beneficiaries of physical protection measures on behalf of the state, however civil society organizations again highlights the fact that unless the physical protection measures are combined with effective “political” measures, the defence of the fundamental rights will continue to be a high risk activity in Colombia.

Disappearance of Angel and Claudia    

On the 6th of October 2000, Angel Quintero and Claudia Monsalve, who were members of an organization called Asfaddes, were disappeared in the city of Medellin. Cluadia was the sister of Edgar Augusto Monsalve, who was disappeared in 1995; and Angel had 6 members of his family disappeared and 2 assassinated.

The disappearance of Angel and Cluadia happened in the context of systematic persecution by state security agents against social organisations in Medellin. [3] Between December 1997 and February 2001, the Guala[4], a unit of the National Police, made 1808 illegal communication interceptions (among those were telephone calls of both Angel and Cluadia). The director of the Guala in this era was Lieutenant Coronel Mauricio Santoyo. Because of this the families of Angel and Cluadia, as well as Asfaddes, have all these years denounced him as responsible for the disappearances of Angel and Cluadia.[5]

Angel Quintero before his death in 200 Photo: Manon Schick
Angel Quintero before his death in 200 Photo: Manon Schick

Santoyo, who years later was in charge of security for the ex-president Alvaro Uribe, is now in prison in the United States condemned for narco-trafficking offences and has confessed to having contacts with  “The Office of Envigado” as well as the well known paramilitary leaders; the Castaño brothers. [6]

In October 2013, 13 years after the disappearance, a delegated district attorney concluded before the Supreme Court of Justice in Bogota, that there is evidence to formerly link the high-ranking officer to the disappearance of the human rights defenders and for the illegal interception of nearly 2000 telephone lines. However, despite celebrating these advances, the bodies of Angel and Cluadia have still not been found and the case is still unresolved. [7]

Ana Vicente


[1] El Colombiano: In 2013, 78 human rights defenders were assassinated according to NGO; 23rd of February

[2] We Are Defenders program Annual Report 2010, aggressions against human rights defenders, 2nd of February 2011; We Are Defenders Program: Claroscuro, Annual Report 2011, 2nd of February 2012; We Are Defenders Program: The Placebo Effect, Annual report 2012, February 2013; We Are Defenders Program: Report Siaddhh 2013: D for Defence, 21 of February 2014; We Are Defenders Program The Divine Comedy, Annual Report 2014, 18th of February 2015; We Are Defenders Program Aggressions against Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. January – March 2015, page 2.  16th of April 2015

[3] Cijp: Claudia Monsalve and Angel Quintero, 6th of October 2004.

[4] The Guala or Unified Action Group to Free Persons, are elite units created by the law 282 in 1996, and were created to fight against extortion and kidnapping.

[5] Semana: Santoyo, now to respond to the disappearances, 3rd of October 2013.

[6] Otramerica: Disappear looking for the Disappeared, 30th of August 2012

[7] Op. cit. Semana: Santoyo

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