Colombia is working to prevent the killing of activists and tackle impunity, under mounting international pressure to stem the violence, a minister said on Thursday.
Despite a 2016 government peace accord that ended a half a century of civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), activists in the country are still in the firing line, with one gunned down every five days.
They are particularly at risk in regions vacated by rebel fighters following the peace accord, leaving a power vacuum that crime gangs have sought to fill, the United Nations has said.
“The government recognizes that the signing of the peace accord is not peace in itself but a necessary and definitive step towards building a more just and equal society,” said Rodrigo Rivera, Colombia’s interior minister.
“We are fighting against the impunity of homicides of human rights defenders,” he told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday as it reviewed the country’s right record.
The government has set up an elite police task force and investigation unit to dismantle criminal groups and investigate killings and attacks against activists, the minister said.
About 4,000 at-risk activists receive protection from the government, including bodyguards, bullet-proof vests and cars, Rivera said.
The government says 144 human rights campaigners were killed in 2016 and 2017 and 103 people have been arrested.
But local rights groups and watchdogs say the true number of dead is higher.