2016 was an historic year for Colombia, with the signing of a peace agreement on 24 November between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which ended the longest running conflict in the western hemisphere. This followed six weeks of intense negotiations, after an initial deal was rejected by the Colombian people in a plebiscite. Despite progress there are continuing concerns about conflict-related violence, including abuses committed by illegal armed groups. According to the UN, 63 human rights defenders (HRDs) were killed in 2016, 50% higher than in 2015; 75% occurred in rural areas. Civil society reporting suggest this number could be as high as 125.

It is unclear whether there is an ideological pattern behind the killings, but many have taken place in areas vacated by the FARC as illegal armed groups have stepped in. The Colombian Government has taken welcome steps to investigate some of those murders and in December the President announced the formation of a new commission, involving the military, police, government and civil society to help accelerate investigations of these crimes. There are also continuing concerns about the need to improve prison conditions and access to justice for victims, including those of sexual violence.

There are reports of continuing discrimination against the LGB&T community. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reviewed Colombia's Seventh Periodical Review [12] in November, noting positive developments, including the adoption of a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking.

Prime Minister Theresa May discussed human rights with President Santos during the Colombian State Visit to the UK in November 2016, when we reaffirmed our shared commitment to human rights in a Joint Declaration. The UK promoted the protection of HRDs through project funding, field visits, high level engagement and joint work with the EU and UN. The Embassy also hosted a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur for HRDs in September 2016. During the review period, Her Majesty's Ambassador continued to take an active role in the "Ambassadors with Defenders" initiative, which launched a media campaign in December to highlight the work of HRDs.

Our Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVI) projects with women's organisations helped to report and document cases of sexual violence using the International Protocol (1,200 criminal reports and 507 cases documented to date). We also supported the attendance of three Colombian experts at the Wilton Park conference to develop a Global Action Plan against Stigma. The UK chaired the International Cooperation Working Group on Gender Justice and Peace in Bogota in 2016. This initiative was designed to address women's political participation in Colombia.

The Colombian Government reports that it has begun to implement their National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights, which was first launched in December 2015 following collaboration with the UK. We are working with the Colombian Ministry of Mines on a project that focuses on inclusion of the "remedy" pillar of the UN Guiding Principles, which will encourage companies to address adverse affects of their activities on local communities, by resolving them through legitimate processes.

In 2017, the UK will continue to focus on three human rights priority issues in Colombia: HRDs, PSVI and business and human rights. We will continue to work with the Colombian Government to ensure that respect for human rights, access to justice and preventing sexual exploitation continue to be guiding principles during implementation of the peace process with the FARC.

12 http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/COL/CO/7&Lang=En


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