How many social movement leaders have been killed in Colombia? An estimate and analysis

As the war between the guerrillas, the Army, and paramilitary groups in Colombia winds down, violence against social movement leaders has intensified. Using data from six organizations, this report estimates the total number of social movement leaders killed in 2016 and 2017. The perpetrators of the killings are not reported in the data or in the report.

In the report, we observe that together, the monitoring organizations documented 160 killings in 2016, and we estimate a total population of 166 deaths.[1] In 2017, there were 172 documented killings, and we estimate a total of 185 deaths.[2]

From this, we conclude that the number of killings is increasing. More precisely, we estimate that there is a 50 percent probability that the increase between 2016-2017 was 10 percent or greater.

The full report is available in Spanish here. HRDAG has drafted and published this report in partnership with Dejusticia. This is a first analysis of lethal violence against social movement leaders, and it extends earlier work HRDAG did to estimate the total number of murdered trade unionists.[3] We look forward to additional statistical analyses of violence in Colombia, taking into account both what we can observe and what is hidden from documentation.

The journals KienyKe, Verdad Abierta, Noticias Caracol, El Espectador and El Colombiano have reported on the findings.

[1] With a 95% two-tailed credible interval of [160, 180]

[2] With a 95% two-tailed credible interval of [176, 200]

[3] Unobserved Union Violence: Statistical Estimates of the Total Number of Trade Unionists Killed in Colombia, 1999-2008.

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.