United Nations officials voiced their concerns over the growing violence targeting social leaders in Colombia and condemning the government’s inaction and seeming apathy for the rural region’s communities.
"The murder of human rights defenders in Colombia is very serious, given that it affects the country's most vulnerable population," a statement from the office of UN High Commissioner of Human Rights said.
The letter noted that 59% of the 105 human rights defenders who have died over the last year were conducted by gunmen. At least eleven other cases are currently under investigation, while earlier today a community leader in Puerto Colombia, Putumayo was murdered along with his eight-year-old daughter.
Pablo Oviedo was walking with his daughter and both were ambushed by a group and shot multiple times. The two were rushed to San Francisco de Asis Hospital in Puerto de Asis and declared dead.
Oviedo’s two brothers who are involved in the Human Rights Network in southern Colombia were also declared missing.
The tragic death of father and daughter occurred hours after Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas had participated in security council meeting with the purpose of addressing the violence in the southwestern city of Mocoa.
Social leaders present at the meeting wore masks to cover their faces in an attempt to avoid being swept away in the wave of violence.
"Being a defender of human rights is a legitimate, necessary, and fundamental task for the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law and the construction of a sustainable peace," the UN said in its letter to Colombian officials.
The declaration made reference to Villegas’ recent statement where he attributed the deaths of the hundreds of social leaders to skirmishes, personal disagreements and illicit activities.
"Recently, members of the Congress of the Republic disqualified the defenders who were chosen as magistrates of the Special Justice for Peace, JEP, preventing them from taking office because they represented victims in the past, which shows the disrespect for their work and deep ignorance of what the rules of the rule of law mean," the UN said.
"This is very dangerous because it seems to want to justify murders which are in no way justifiable," UN added.
The letter reiterated its demand for judicial action in defense of human and social rights activists and investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the murders and violence perpetrated against the sector.