How Many Social Movement Leaders Have Been Killed in Colombia?
The killing of social movement leaders has been widely documented in Colombia, particularly since the Peace Agreement in 2016. Documentation organizations do not agree on the exact number of killings.
2018: Using data from six organizations, this report estimates the total number of social movement leaders killed in 2016 and 2017. 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. 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.
2019: Using multiple system estimation (MSE), we estimate the total population of social movement leaders killed in Colombia during 2018. This work expands our previous document “Asesinato de líderes sociales en 2016 y 2017: una estimación del universo,” in which we estimated the universe of victims for 2016 and 2017. [report in English] [report in Spanish]
The Disappeared in the Palace of Justice
This memo (November, 2013) explains how HRDAG helped the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) to present evidence against the Colombian Army in support of the plaintiff, families of nine civilians who worked in the Palace cafeteria and were disappeared and possibly tortured during a two-day siege of the Palace of Justice in 1985.
Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
In 2011 HRDAG issued a report with the Colombian NGO Corporación Punto de Vista, examining how quantitative data can be used to assess conflict related sexual violence in Colombia. This paper, “Using Quantitative Data to Assess Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Colombia: Challenges and Opportunities,” (Roth, Guberek, Hoover Green) notes that sexual violations are notoriously difficult forms of violence to measure. The authors point out that misinterpretation of the available data may create false impressions of reliability and lead to incorrect interpretations that promote unsound policy assessments, misallocation of resources and potential attacks by critics.
In 2010 HRDAG released a paper that examines an academic article, “Is Violence Against Union Members in Colombia Systematic and Targeted?” written by Colombian academics Daniel Mejía and María José Uribe. That paper concluded that “. . . on average, violence against unionists in Colombia is neither systematic nor targeted.”
“Comments to the article ‘Is Violence Against Union Members in Colombia Systematic and Targeted?’” (Price and Guzmán) engages an important academic debate, where the magnitude, patterns and causes of anti-union violence in Colombia are not yet conclusive. This dialogue has important implications for human rights in Colombia where thousands of union leaders and members have been killed, disappeared and threatened for decades.
The public debate about union violence intensified from 2008 to 2010 as countries negotiating free trade agreements with Colombia, including the U.S., explicitly cited union violence as an obstacle to finalizing agreements. Given the importance of this debate, any study that makes claims about the patterns and magnitude of union violence in Colombia requires the highest level of precision and scientific rigor.
In their response, Price and Guzmán present – in technical and methodological detail – the reasons they find the conclusions in Mejía and Uribe’s study to be overstated. Price and Guzmán believe that weaknesses in the data, in the choice of the statistical model, and the interpretation of the model used in Mejía and Uribe’s study, all raise serious questions about the authors’ strong causal conclusions.
Price and Guzmán point out that unchecked, those conclusions distort the truth about violence against unions and can mislead important social, economic and political decisions in Colombia. The authors believe that more examination is needed to determine patterns and magnitude of union homicides in Colombia -and that Mejía and Uribe’s study does not resolve the question, “is violence against union members in Colombia systematic and targeted?”
Deaths and Disappearances
Claims of Declining Lethal Violence
> Valentina Rozo Ángel and Patrick Ball. 2019. Killings of social movement leaders in Colombia: an estimation of the total population of victims – update 2018. Human Rights Data Analysis Group. 10 December 2019. © HRDAG 2019. [English] [español]
> Patrick Ball, César Rodríguez and Valentina Rozo. 2018. Asesinatos de líderes sociales en Colombia en 2016–2017: una estimación del universo. Dejusticia and Human Rights Data Analysis Group. August 2018. © 2018 HRDAG. Creative Commons.
> Patrick Ball and Michael Reed Hurtado. 2016. Criminality registration and measurement. The problem of missing data, and the use of science to produce estimations relating to homicide in Colombia, as demonstrated with an example from one of its administrative and political divisions: the Department of Antioquia (2003-2011). Revista Criminalidad, 58 (1): 9-23.
> Patrick Ball y Michael Reed Hurtado. 2015. Cuentas y mediciones de la criminalidad y de la violencia. Forensis 16, no. 1 (July): 529-545. © 2015 Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses (República de Colombia).
> Françoise Roth, Tamy Guberek, and Amelia Hoover Green. 2011. “Using Quantitative Data to Assess Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Colombia: Challenges and Opportunities.” A report by the Benetech Human Rights Program and Corporación Punto de Vista. 22 March. (Spanish.) © 2011 Benetech. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.
> Megan Price and Daniel Guzmán. 2010. “Comments to the article ‘Is Violence Against Union Members in Colombia Systematic and Targeted?’” 28 May. (en español) © 2010 Benetech. CC BY-NC-SA. Executive Summary (English) (español)
> Tamy Guberek, Daniel Guzmán, Megan Price, Kristian Lum and Patrick Ball. 2010. “To Count the Uncounted: An Estimation of Lethal Violence in Casanare,” A Report by the Benetech Human Rights Program. 10 February. (Available in Spanish) © 2010 Benetech. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.
> Tamy Guberek, Daniel Guzmán, and Beatriz Vejarano. 2010. “Using Cemetery Information in the Search for the Disappeared: Lessons from a Pilot Study in Rionegro, Antioquia.” In Methodological Proposals for Documenting and Searching for Missing Persons in Colombia. (Available in Spanish) © 2010 EQUITAS. All rights reserved.
> Patrick Ball, Tamy Guberek, Daniel Guzmán, Amelia Hoover, and Meghan Lynch. 2007. “Assessing Claims of Declining Lethal Violence in Colombia.” Benetech. En español: “Para Evaluar Afirmaciones Sobre la Reducción de la Violencia Letal en Colombia.”
View datasets for reports estimating the magnitude and the patterns of deaths and disappearances in Casanare, Colombia here.