Video: Carolina Agón of CREDHOS speaks at the launch of the CIEDH report.

Two key reports were released on June 9 – one from the Information Center on Business and Human Rights (CIEDH), the other from Fundación Conflict Responses (CORE), CRY-GEAM, and Extinction Rebellion Colombia – document the dangerous situation for environmental defenders in Colombia, notably those challenging fracking.

El Espectador reports:

Between January 2020 and December 2021, the Information Center on Business and Human Rights (CIEDH) recorded 58 cases of attacks on trade unionists, activists, or human rights defenders whose work questioned companies or business practices in the country.

The figures come from the report Business and human rights in Colombia: urgent protection is needed for people who defend the land, territory, and the environment.

The CIEDH classified the recorded attacks on defenders by branches of production as follows: the oil, coal, and gas sector (23 cases), agribusinesses such as palm, banana, or sugar (10 cases), mining (9 cases), hydroelectric and renewable energy sources (4 cases), transportation (5 cases), private security (5 cases), tourism and water companies one case respectively.

The attackers come from a wide spectrum that includes private security companies to state agents, as well as members of the affected communities themselves, who see their interests threatened if the business projects end.

However, in Colombia, the investigation would show that the majority of attacks come from paramilitary groups and organized crime groups that “allegedly sometimes act on behalf of private companies,” according to the report: “some of the largest and most well-known companies established in the extractive sector were repeatedly linked to violence in their operations.”

Several specific cases are cited in the report, but there is one especially important one that has to do with opposition to fracking projects in Magdalena Medio.

The case of Magdalena Medio is also emblematic because in Santander, the department that covers part of this subregion is where the greatest number of harassments against defenders and trade unionists is concentrated.

According to the CIEDH, in Colombia there is a “failure” in the “enhanced due diligence” of companies to prevent their business practices from leading by action or omission to violent dynamics in the areas where they are operating.

As for recommendations, the Center proposes that businesses and companies “respect the full rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities and guarantee access to reparation, when damage occurs” and also “assume political commitments, recognize the increased risk, respect land rights and the forests of ethnic communities.

The full article in El Espectador can be read at “En Colombia hay un clima de intimidación sistémica a los líderes sociales”: CIEDH.

Video: Oscar Sampayo speaks at the launch of the report.

The report from CORE, CRY-GEAM, and Extinction Rebellion Colombia on attacks against environmental leaders reveals a similar situation. It focuses on environmental defenders in the Magdalena Medio.

The report highlights: “It is due to the logic of hydrocarbons extraction, within the framework of the claim of the Government of Iván Duque in imposing the technique of hydraulic fracturing in generating rock (fracking) in the region, where different voices, processes, and leadership question the form as extraction in the territory is given due to the environmental impacts it generates.”

Environmental defender Oscar Sampayo says: “This report reveals that Santander is the department with the greatest number of human rights violations, there we registered at least 16 threats and three attacks against people who exercise environmental leadership and defense of nature, the panorama is worrying because we also have two leaders were assassinated in the region, which shows an increase in these violations.”

For more, please see the Vanguardia article Informe devela grave violencia contra líderes ambientales en el Magdalena Medio.