Colombia has not been on the UNHRC during the time of this study, so we didn’t include its votes on human rights declarations. It has been quiet in the UPR process, tending to accept many of the recommendations concerning basic human rights concerns. Under President Santos, Colombia has also become engaged in the Inter-American system mostly cooperating with the Commission on cases in which it was involved and offering a letter of commitment to make a voluntary contribution to help bail out the Commission when it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Where Colombia surprises is in the regulatory restrictions its places on civil society.
Below is a breakdown of Colombia’s actions and votes at the various venues we are monitoring. For more information click on each title and summary.
|Freedom Status||Partly Free|
|Aggregate Score (100 is perfect freedom and protection of rights)||66/100|
|Political Rights (scores out of 29, with 40 being the best)||29/40|
|Civil Liberties (scores out of 60, with 60 being the best)||37/60|
|Reporters Without Borders|
|World Press Freedom Index (scores out of 100, with 1 being the best)||42|
|Corruption Perception Index (CPI)||37/100|
|World Justice Project |
|UN Human Development Index|
|Human Development Index||0.767|
|Americas Quarterly (last report 2016)|
|Social Inclusion Index||75.53/100|
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC or Council)
Colombia has never been on the UNHRC.
UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review
As part of its mandate to promote human rights around the globe, the UNHRC has instituted a Universal Periodic Review, where, once every four years, each country’s human rights record is examined. Other countries are invited to review the record and make comments and suggestions for improvement. The country under review then acknowledges each comment by either “accepting” the comment, meaning typically that they agree to focus on, or “noting” it, indicating that they disagree and will not be focusing on improvements in this area.
As recipient: Colombia received 167 recommendations. Accepted 127, noted 40. (only select topics listed below)
|Freedom of association and peaceful assembly||–||–||–|
|Freedom of opinion and expression||–||–||–|
|Freedom of religion and belief||–||–||–|
|Freedom of press||3||3||–|
|Human rights defenders||13||13||–|
|Human rights violations by state agents||5||2||3|
|Internally displaced persons||1||1||–|
|Sexual orientation and gender identity||3||2||1|
|Torture and CID treatment||12||1||11|
Note: some comments are classified under multiple categories.
As commenter: Colombia has not been fairly active in the UPR process, with 112 comments made so far in the 2nd cycle (for data available). With 46% made towards other Latin American countries, it consistently made 2-4 comments for most, but not all, countries around the globe.
Note: This data is for the 2nd cycle of the UPR. However, the final round of countries were reviewed in November/December 2016, and that data is not yet available to include in our analysis here.
UN NGO Committee
Colombia has not been on the committee since 2008.
OAS Permanent Council
Under the new leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, the OAS has re-found its focus on defending democracy but is still bound by the wishes and will of its members. But the newfound leader’s commitment—and the challenges—were shown at a meeting in June 2016 where Almagro presented his report on the state of democracy in Venezuela and proposed invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
In June 2016, Colombia voted in favor of Secretary General Luis Almagro presenting his report laying out the evidence on how and why it was necessary to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Venezuela. Despite endless procedural hurdles thrown up by Venezuela and its allies, the Permanent Council eventually got to a vote, albeit on the procedural issue of the agenda and whether Almagro should present his report at all. Colombia voted with the majority.
During the Meeting of Foreign Ministers on the Situation in Venezuela, at the 2017 OAS General Assembly, Colombia voted in favor of a U.S.-backed resolution that called for the release of political prisoners, and urged the Venezuelan government not to convene a constituent assembly that would rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. The resolution did not receive the 23 votes needed to pass.
Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR or Commission)
Unlike past administrations, President Santos’ government has been positively engaged with the Commission and even improved its score from the 157th session to the 158th session. While as of our report, the funds had not yet been provided to the Commission after it threatened that it would have to shutter its operations temporarily and lay off staff, it did provide a letter of commitment to providing support.
Gender and the Peace Accords, Colombia
Freedom of expression and access to information in criminal trials in Colombia and Violence and situation of human rights of indigenous peoples in Cauca state, Colombia
Collective Reincorporation Processes in the Peace Accords in Colombia and Threats Against and Murders of Social Leaders in Colombia
Implementation of precautionary measures with differential and collective ethnic approach in Colombia, Complaints of noncompliance with reparation to victims of dispossession and forced abandonment of land in Colombia and Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia
Situation of Defenders of Indigenous Rights in Colombia and Reports of Forced Disappearance in Colombia
Complaints of impunity for killings and attacks on human rights defenders in Colombia
State Anti-Impunity Obligations and Special Justice for Peace in Colombia
Guarantees of Non-Repetition in the Peace Accord in Colombia
Investigation of Attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Colombia
Gender Perspective in the context of the peace process in Colombia
Human Rights and the Peace process in Colombia
General Situation of Human Rights in Colombia
Search for Missing Persons in La Escombrera de Medellín, Colombia
Case 12.957- Jineth Bedoya, Colombia
Jahel Quiroga Carrillo, Colombia
Territory, Human Rights, and Peace-Building in the Departments of Cauca and Córdoba, Colombia
Human Rights Defenders-Land Restitution
Health and Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence
Legal Reforms with Regard to Security Forces
Discrimination against People of African Descent
Voluntary financial contributions to IACHR (as of Sept. 16, 2016):
Contributions by Colombia
Percentage of Total
Contributions to IACHR
The OAS has conducted a total of 12 electoral observation missions to Colombia since 1994. The latest electoral observation mission took place in 2019, to help monitor the general election. The OAS also monitored elections in 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2002, and 1997.
Given Colombia’s own commitment to receiving credible international election monitors for its own elections, it remains unclear why it continues to support UNASUR election monitoring efforts and the UNASUR dialogues in Venezuela, which have failed to hold the government accountable.
Freedom of Information Laws
Since 2000 the right to information and freedom of information laws have expanded across the region. However, the existence of the laws on the books does not necessarily mean full enforcement.
Signatory/Participant in MESICIC*
Specific law enacted*
Yes- enacted in 1985
Is there a presumption of right*
Applies to all bodies, including private bodies that receive public funding; vague on national security exceptions and limited overrides
Received information under FOIA law?**
Received information within a week?**
Received the appropriate information?**
Protecting women against gender-based violence is a human rights issue often overlooked globally even though it crosses social, economic and national boundaries. And according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender-based violence undermines the health, security, dignity, and autonomy of its victims. Although 16 countries in Latin America had modified their laws to include a specific type of crime referring to the murder of women by 2015, they are not uniformly implemented, and practices to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence are still extremely weak. A 2016 report published by the Small Arms Survey found that Latin America and the Caribbean is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world.
To fight against gender-based violence, Colombia passed the Rosa Elvira Cely Law in 2015. The law defines the murder of women due to their gender as femicide, and hardens the penalties for this crime and all those related to gender-based violence. However, at a rate of 5.7 per 100,000 women, Colombia has the sixth highest female homicide rate in Latin America. With the Rosa Elvira Cely Law, prosecutors and forensic experts needed to change the way they investigate and identify cases of femicide.
To fight against gender-based violence, Colombia passed the Rosa Elvira Cely Law in 2015. The law defines the murder of women due to their gender as femicide, and hardens the penalties for this crime and all those related to gender-based violence. However, at a rate of 5.7 per 100,000 women, Colombia has the sixth highest female homicide rate in Latin America.
With the Rosa Elvira Cely Law, prosecutors and forensic experts needed to change the way they investigate and identify cases of femicide.
7.8 percent of the population in Latin America, roughly 41,813,039 people, identify as indigenous, 49 percent of them live in urban areas and 51 percent live in rural areas.
The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO 169)
The Labour Organization’s Convention 169 (ILO169)—which has the status of an international treaty—establishes the right of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted when a policy or project affects their culture or heritage through what is commonly called “previous and informed consent.” The vaguely worded treaty has been a point of contention in some countries, among governments, investors and communities; and progress in implementing it has been uneven. The Convention has been interpreted, in particular, as applying to issues of national resource extraction and infrastructure development that affect communal lands. In Latin America 16 countries have signed ILO 169.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP)
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007, all Latin American countries, except Colombia, which abstained, voted in favor of this declaration. The only four countries to initially reject this declaration were the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While it is not a legally binding instrument, it is an “important standard” for the treatment of indigenous people. The declaration sets out the collective and individual rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and other issues. It prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. The end goal is to encourage countries to work alongside indigenous communities to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralization.
American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
In 2016, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after a long negotiation of 17 years. The declaration recognizes the collective organization and multicultural character of indigenous peoples, the self-identification of people who consider themselves indigenous and special protection for peoples in voluntary isolation or initial contact. However, the declaration was met with resistance by members of the indigenous community, who complained that they did not have full participation in the negotiations and that the declaration rolled back several rights recognized in UNDRIP. The declaration does not mention the right to previous and informed consultation.
Previous to the declaration, in 1990, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had created the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to devote attention to Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and to “strengthen, promote, and systemize the IACHR’s own work in this area. The current Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples is Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Ambassador of Peru to Spain from 2012 to 2014 and Minister of the Office of Justice. He received a law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru with a master’s degree in Constitutional Law and a PhD in Humanities. Former Rapporteurs include, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine a former IACHR Commissioner and Dinah Shelton an international law consultant for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme among other organizations.
From 2010 to 2018, out of 268 seats, only three were held by indigenous persons, all of them due to the three seats reserved for indigenous representatives elected nationally. Projections from 2005 data predicted that by 2010 there would be 1,532,678 indigenous people in the country, or 3.3 percent of the total population. Twenty two percent of those were living in urban areas at the time of the last census. Colombia and Peru have made the most progress in terms of passing laws and establishing a government body to oversee the process. There have been more than 4,000 agreements between 2003 and 2014 settled through previous and informed consent. A presidential directive in November 2013 established a guide to assist communities and potential investors in the process. However, a recent Constitutional Court decision has put Colombia’s progress in question. In 2013 the court argued that the right to consultation could only be asserted after 2008—the date the legislation measures were established—rather than when Colombia signed ILO 169 in 1991, raising the possibility that agreements could be rolled back in some cases. Although having signed ILO 169, Colombia abstained from voting on UNDRIP and added footnotes on the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples expressing dissent on three points, all dealing with the right to previous and informed consent.
From 2010 to 2018, out of 268 seats, only three were held by indigenous persons, all of them due to the three seats reserved for indigenous representatives elected nationally.
Projections from 2005 data predicted that by 2010 there would be 1,532,678 indigenous people in the country, or 3.3 percent of the total population. Twenty two percent of those were living in urban areas at the time of the last census.
Colombia and Peru have made the most progress in terms of passing laws and establishing a government body to oversee the process. There have been more than 4,000 agreements between 2003 and 2014 settled through previous and informed consent. A presidential directive in November 2013 established a guide to assist communities and potential investors in the process. However, a recent Constitutional Court decision has put Colombia’s progress in question. In 2013 the court argued that the right to consultation could only be asserted after 2008—the date the legislation measures were established—rather than when Colombia signed ILO 169 in 1991, raising the possibility that agreements could be rolled back in some cases. Although having signed ILO 169, Colombia abstained from voting on UNDRIP and added footnotes on the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples expressing dissent on three points, all dealing with the right to previous and informed consent.