Status: adopted national law or policy
Colombia has a very robust set of regulations aimed at protecting human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk. In 1997, through Law 418, the Ministry of the Interior set up a programme for the protection of persons at risk due to political or ideological violence or the internal armed conflict. In 2000, the Programme for the Protection of Journalists and Social Communicators was created through Decree 1595; and in 2006, Decree 2816 was issued, which designs and regulates the Human Rights Protection Programme of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice and adopts other provisions.
Within this framework, Decree 4065 of 2011 was issued, which created the National Protection Unit (UNP), whose purpose is to “articulate, coordinate and execute the provision of protection services to those who (…) by virtue of their activities, conditions or political, public, social, humanitarian situations, (…) by virtue of their activities, conditions or political, public, social or humanitarian situations, (…) are in a situation of extraordinary risk”. ) are in a situation of extraordinary or extreme risk”; Decree 4912 (amended by 1225 of 2012) which organises the Prevention and Protection Programme for the rights to life, liberty, integrity and security of persons, groups and communities of the Ministry of Interior and the National Protection Unit; and Decrees 4633, 4634 and 4635 for the protection of Indigenous Peoples, Room or Gypsy Peoples and Black Communities, respectively.
During the same year, in the framework of the implementation of Law 1448 on Victims and Land Restitution, the criteria and elements for the review and implementation of comprehensive protection programmes were established, through which many of the protection measures for defenders were processed, especially in rural areas. Likewise, Decree 4800 of 2011 incorporated the differential approach (Arts. 212 to 221) and explicitly included Collective Protection in the protection programmes (Art. 217 and 218).
In 2015, the Ministry of Interior issued the Sole Regulatory Decree 1066, which repeals 4912 and brings together all the regulations in force to date on the protection of human rights defenders; it has about 24 amending decrees, mostly issued in the framework of the implementation of the Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict signed between the National Government and the FARC-EP; we highlight those that we consider most relevant for the protection of defenders and their collectives:
At the beginning of his mandate, President Iván Duque issued Decree 2137 of 2018, which created the Plan of Timely Action for Prevention and Protection – PAO for Human Rights Defenders, Social Leaders, Community Leaders and Journalists, with the aim of articulating, guiding and coordinating the different protection programmes and resources of the different government entities involved in prevention and individual and collective protection. Unlike other mechanisms, this one does not foresee the participation of civil society organisations and maintains a strong emphasis on military response and the securitisation of protection.
Finally, on 10 December 2019, the President of the Republic presented the Public Policy Framework for Comprehensive Protection and Guarantees for Social and Community Leaders and Journalists, which will be the basis for developing a Public Protection Policy, still under construction through the elaboration of a CONPES, which is expected to be processed before the end of the current government’s mandate.
Although this accumulation of regulations is evidence of the Colombian government’s commitment to address the risk situation of human rights defenders, it should be noted that in most cases there is no clear coordination between them; there is an overlapping of instances and measures; limited capacity of territorial entities to implement them; There is little participation of defenders, who are seen as objects of state action and not as subjects or agents of the right to protection, which leads to a lack of a coordinated and effective response from the state, with the persistence of serious levels of risk and aggression against defenders and a systematic violation of the right to defend human rights in their entirety.