Jose Maria Lemus, president of the Tibu Community Board in Colombia’s North of Santander state, has been killed, the Peoples’ Congress reported Wednesday.
His murder adds to the growing list of recently assassinated social, Indigenous and human rights activists in the South American country.
In May, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised alarm over the fact that at least 41 activists have been killed in Colombia so far this year, a record figure in comparison to previous years. The report laid bare to a troubling escalation of violence despite a historic agreement between the government and the country's largest rebel army last year.
U.N. commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the figure shows a worsening trend of crimes against social leaders and human rights defenders.
“It's an increase over the same period last year and the previous years, and it is very alarming,” he said during a news conference.
According to Zeid, the attacks appear to be concentrated in areas that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia previously controlled during the armed conflict and recently abandoned in order to demobilize after the signing of the peace agreement.
Official statistics show that a staggering 156 social leaders were killed in Colombia in the 14 months between Jan. 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017. Amid the crisis, rights groups have urged the Colombian government to prioritize tackling paramilitary violence that often targets progressive social leaders including campesinos, Indigenous activists and other human rights defenders.
On Monday, organizations such as the Agrarian Summit, Black Communities Process and the Peoples' Congress protested against the criminalization of social leaders.