There was mixed progress on the human rights situation in Colombia in 2015, despite efforts by the government of Colombia to improve it. President Santos took several significant steps to address human rights issues as part of the process to end the conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On 23 September, a landmark deal was reached on transitional justice and reparations for victims. In October, both sides agreed an accord to trace disappeared victims of the conflict. On 15 December, agreement was reaffirmed to establish a truth commission, reparations for victims, and punishment for war criminals.
The Land Restitution and Victims' Law (2011) continues to provide compensation for victims, although progress is slow. Furthermore, in July, the government approved Law 1761, which categorises femicide as a separate crime and increases the punishment to up to 50 years' imprisonment. The Presidential Adviser for Human Rights published a human rights report in December after a five-year hiatus. However, human rights violations and abuses across a number of sectors remain a concern, including sexual violence, internal displacement, forced disappearances, and targeting of human rights defenders (HRDs). 63 HRDs were killed in 2015, a 13% increase from 2014. Colombia also remains one of the countries in the world with the highest levels of impunity.
The UK has been a strong supporter of Colombia's improvement on human rights issues. Our overarching human rights objectives are to reduce impunity for human rights violations and abuses, improve access to justice, and support strong government institutions. Through prioritising three issues – the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), business and human rights, and HRDs – the UK has made a tangible difference. The UK helped Colombia draft its National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights, published in December 2015. This is the first of its kind outside of Europe. The UK continues to raise human rights concerns with the Colombian government on a regular basis, including on specific cases.
The peace process, which both sides are committed to concluding in 2016, will further help the government of Colombia to tackle human rights issues. The FARC's unilateral ceasefire and the government's suspension of aerial bombardments have reduced the intensity of hostilities. However, there is concern that security could worsen on the signing of a peace deal, as illegal armed groups and criminals may fill the vacuum left by FARC's demobilisation. Threats to land reform campaigners and HRDs may increase in the short term. Underlying drivers of the conflict, such as inequality and corruption, may lead to an increase in social protest.
For 2016, the UK's human rights priorities will include further support for the post-conflict stage of the peace process. In addition to comprehensive bilateral support, the UK is a significant contributor to the UN Post-Conflict Trust Fund and the EU Trust Fund for Colombia. The UK will also continue working bilaterally on the priority areas of PSVI and HRDs, as well as business and human rights.