The defence of human rights, a high-risk activity in Colombia: Stigmatization

Stigmatization has been a type of aggression constantly used against the Colombian social movement for the last 20 years.

Public servants, using different forms of media publicity, have constantly attacked the work of human rights organizations accusing them of having close links or even belonging to guerrilla or paramilitary groups, being part of their legal defence teams or giving them shelter, amongst other accusations.

Although human rights organizations consider that the National Process of Guarantees, has helped that their work is acknowledged and legitimized to some degree at a national level, at a regional level the story is completely different; networks of Colombian human rights organizations consider that the declarations made at a national level are useless if they are not followed up by actions that make the regional authorities implement the agreements that have been made.[1] In this sense the organizations highlight the lack of compliance of the directives that prohibit these unfounded accusations and point out that while no action is taken against public servants who do not respect the directives, there are very few incentives to comply with them.[2]

Peace Community of San José de Apartadó


The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, was formed in 1997 and declared itself neutral in the armed conflict rejecting the presence of all armed groups in its territory. From the beginning the members of the Peace Community have suffered from attacks, such as forced displacement, assassinations, death threats, massacres, amongst other type of aggressions. A case that seriously stands out is after the massacre inflicted on 8 members of the Peace Community by members of the security forces and paramilitary forces in February 2005, the Colombian president at the time, Alvaro Uribe, made an unfounded accusation after the massacre stating that some members of the Peace Community were actually members of the Farc. [3]

Nine years later, and complying with the orders of Court Order 164/12 released by the Constitutional Court[4], President Santos asked for forgiveness from the Peace Community. However he did not order the creation of a procedure to avoid future unfounded accusations, as dictated in the court order.  Today, far from being reduced, the stigmatization of the Peace Community continues, mainly coming from the mouth of the Commander of the 17th Brigade who, in the national and regional media accuses the Peace Community of having links with illegal organizations.[5]

Ana Vicente


[1] We are Defenders Program: Special Report “Protection on the Table”, February 2014

[2] PBI Colombia The lack of political measures of protection and the dream of their existence 22nd of July 2011

[3] Semana: Uribe tarnished the honour of Apartadó, 29th of May 2013

[4] CdP: The Presidente asked for forgiveness, 16 of December 2013.

[5] CdP: When there is no legitimacy, the bought propaganda is good, 10th of Novemeber 2014.

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