For decades, Colombia has suffered under an armed conflict that particularly affects the civilian population. In the course of this conflict (and after), human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists have been labeled as guerrilla fighters, making them into ostensibly legitimate military targets for the Colombian army and paramilitary groups.
In light of the ongoing violence suffered by human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists, and the crucial importance of their work for a free and democratic society, there is an urgent need to take legal action and deter future attacks. The same applies to the widespread sexual violence against women, which is committed by all parties to the conflict and is part of the military strategy. There is a real need to challenge the impunity often enjoyed by those responsible, especially by higher ranking officials. Impunity is also rife when it comes to the impact of transnational corporations' business practices in Colombia. The role of companies in human rights violations is rarely investigated, let alone examined before a court.
In light of the above, the situation in Colombia – which is representative of many recurring global human rights violations – is a focus area of ECCHR's work. The goal is to hold accountable those responsible for international crimes, including the most powerful actors. Since to date there have been no effective investigations against high-level state officials in Colombia, ECCHR and its Colombian partner organizations are also calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take action.
ECCHR filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and some of its top managers in 2012. The complaint accuses the managers of being in breach of their obligations by failing to prevent crimes of Colombian paramilitary groups and failing to adequately protect trade unionists from these crimes.
General Padilla was General Commander of the Colombian Military Forces when the practice of 'falsos positivos' escalated. He is presumably responsible for international crimes committed by his subordinates, he neither prevented nor punished the wrongdoers.
ECCHR criticizes the passing of a new law in context of peace negotiations with Colombian FARC. The law contains gaps, including those regarding military commanders' effective control over their subordinate units.
ECCHR submitted a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requesting action on violence against trade unionists and human rights defenders in Colombia.
The Colombian state is denying women the protection against sexualized crimes and access to justice that it is obliged to guarantee under national and international law. In response, ECCHR has submitted a criminal complaint against Colombia to the International Criminal Court.
Death threats, telephone surveillance, kidnapping of family members – the Colombian government uses a range of means in its efforts to intimidate human rights defenders.Since 2012, ECCHR has researched and documented the brutal repression of trade unionists, environmental activists or community leaders in Colombia.