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  •  Four activists were killed in El Cauca Province.

    Four activists were killed in El Cauca Province. | Photo: Twitter / @AndresEliasGil

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Protecting human rights activists and social leaders while eradicating paramilitary groups will be the government's main challenge after the peace deal is signed.

The Marcha Patriotica political movement condemned Thursday what it called the “extermination of social leaders and human rights groups” on one hand, and the strengthening of paramilitary organizations on the other.

Over the past week, a campesinos leader, a communist youth activist, and two community workers were killed in the southwestern province of El Cauca, the organization announced in a statement.

"Four leaders killed in one month. Peace requires urgent safeguards."

Not only do the recent killings prove that paramilitarism is still a reality in the region, but they demonstrate that authorities still prefer to ignore the issue, while the media rarely covers the murders, the group said.

“Building peace with social justice requires implementing measures that effectively protect activists and leaders, and others that truly eradicate paramilitarism in the country,” it added, as the government and the guerrilla rebels are close to reaching a peace agreement that will include a demobilization clause for the rebels when they are not guilty of war crimes

"The strengthening of paramilitaries and murder of social leaders show we are in the midst of a humanitarian emergency."

“We are in a humanitarian emergency,” said the group's spokesperson David Florez, addressing his tweet to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

At least 54 human rights activists were killed in Colombia last year, according to the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CPDDH), adding to the around 700 activists killed in the past 20 years, as estimated by the United Nations.

These findings back up the work of various media organizations and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which released a report last year that said paramilitary groups — also known as death squads were responsible for the majority of deaths and threats against activists in 2013 and 2014.

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