Colombia

Colombia has two protection mechanisms. One under the Ministry of Interior (MININ) and one under the ‘National Protection Unit’ (NPU). While the NPU is under the MININ and their protection mechanisms complement each other, some legal bases differ. Both establish a collective protection mechanism to protect communities and organisations.

Laws and decrees regulating two protection mechanisms: Law 199 of 1995 and Law 418 of 1997

Law 199 of 1995 (July 22) was modified and partially repealed by Art. 50, Decree 200 of 2003. By which the name of the Ministry of Government is changed and the general principles and rules are established subject to which the National Government will modify its organisational structure and other provisions are issued, and Law 418 of 1997 (December 26) which establishes instruments for the pursuit of coexistence, the effectiveness of justice and other provisions.

Complemented by: Decree 660 of 2018 (April 17) By which Chapter 7, of Title 1, of Part 4, of Book 2 of Decree 1066 of 2015, Sole Regulatory of the Administrative Sector of the Interior, is added to create and regulate the Comprehensive Security and Protection Program for Communities and Organisations in the Territories; and other provisions and Decree 2137 of 2018 (November 19) Whereby the Intersectoral Commission is created for the development of the Timely Action Plan (PAO) for Prevention and Individual and Collective Protection of the rights to life, liberty, integrity and security of human rights defenders, social leaders, community leaders, and journalists – “Commission of the Timely Action Plan (PAO) for human rights defenders, social and community leaders, and journalists

Type of instrument: Various laws and decrees regulating the functions of the protection mechanisms.
Status: (as of 1 January 2022)
Law 199 adopted on 22 July 1995
Law 418 adopted on 26 December 1997
Decree 660 adopted on 17 April 2018
Bylaw adopted on 30 November 2012.

Comments on the instrument:

Colombia has two protection mechanisms. One under the Ministry of Interior (MININ) (analysed in this page) and one under the ‘National Protection Unit’ (NPU) (analysed in a separate page). While the NPU is under the MININ and their protection mechanisms complement each other, some legal bases differ.

Law 199 states that the MININ will have a system to tend to citizen protection demands, with no specific mention of human rights defenders. Law 418 does state that the protection programme will protect leaders and activists, but scantily explains how this will be achieved. Quite a few elements in the NPU mechanisms are missing in the MININ mechanism, but a lack of distinction of the responsibilities and functions of each causes confusion. This can likely be explained due to the age of the mechanisms.

Decree 4912 assigns specific functions to the MININ and the NPU (the former in charge of prevention, the latter in charge of protection). The specific chapter dedicated to a prevention strategy is positive, particularly its inclusion of risk-avoidance training, law and policy changes, and collaboration between the State and communities.

Decree 660 establishes a collective protection mechanism to protect communities and organisations, including leaders, representatives, activists and human rights defenders’ organisations. This Decree explicitly recognises: the need to take into account gender and ethnic considerations; the right to defend human rights; the State’s duty of prevention; the obligation to annually review prevention plans; the obligation of local authorities to recognise human rights defenders work. Decree 2137 somewhat ‘substituted’ Decree 660, creating a new and different collective protection system. Despite being in force, this system is rejected by CSOs and NGOs, due to its militaristic approach and lack of accessibility to civil society.

Does the instrument contain specific provisions easily used to restrict human rights defenders’ rights?
No

Mechanism on the protection of human rights defenders established in the instrument?
Yes. Mechanism established in Article 6 of Law 199 and Article 81 of Law 418.

 


Comparison to the Model Law

Below is a short summary of the instrument compared to the Model Law. For additional information and analysis by ISHR on Colombia, click here.

Key elements of the protection mechanism:

Provision

Covered?

Analysis / articles

Definition of Human Rights Defender

PART

Dec 4912: 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 

Cooperation with human rights defenders, civil society, and national and international human rights bodies

PART

Law 418: 70, 75, 76, 79, 83

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.4.3.2,  2.4.1.7.4.3.

Dec 2137: 9(p1), 10, 11, 16

 Dec 4912: 21, 26, 37, 49

Training of mechanism’s personnel on HR and fundamental freedoms

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.3.6. 
Dec 4912: 4, 17

Periodic reviews with independent experts and CSOs on the functioning of the Mechanism

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.2.5.

Resources for adequate functioning of the Mechanism / transparency on resource usage 

FULL

Law 418: 76, 83
Dec 4912: 3.14, 32

Public acknowledgement of human rights defenders’ work and rights (promotion of UN Declaration)

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.2.9.1

Disseminate information on protection programmes for human rights defenders, Mechanism’s work

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.3.4, 2.4.1.7.6.17

Development of protocols and guidelines based on best practices to protect human rights defenders

PART

Dec 4912: 10

Assist investigations for prosecuting offences against human rights defenders

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.4.5.8

Granting of protective measures based off a specific risk assessment

PART

Law 418: 82

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.6.5.,  2.4.1.7.4.3.

Dec 2137: 3, 12

Review / appeal of Mechanism decision before courts or independent authority

NONE

 

Confidentiality and personal data protection

FULL

Law 418: 72
Dec 4912: 2.13

Actions to achieve structural changes (annual reports on the situation of human rights defenders, advising government on laws and policies related to human rights defenders) 

PART

Dec 660: 2.4.1.7.6.5, 2.4.1.7.6.12

Dec 2137: 15

Dec 4912: 17

Quick access and downloads

Law 199 of 1995 Law 418 of 1997 Decree 660 of 2018 Decree 2137 of 2018


Decrees regulating two protection mechanisms: Decree 4065 of 2011 and Decree 4912 of 2011

Decree 4065 of 2011 (October 31) By which the National Protection Unit (UNP) is created, its objective and structure are established; and Decree 4912 of 2011 (December 26) by which the Program for the Prevention and Protection of the rights to life, liberty, integrity and security of individuals, groups and communities of the Ministry of the Interior and the National Protection Unit is organised.

Complemented by: Decree 2078 of 2017 (December 7) on the route of collective protection of the rights to life, freedom, integrity and personal security of groups and communities, Decree 4633 of 2011 (December 09) By means of which measures of assistance, attention, comprehensive reparation and restitution of territorial rights are dictated to the victims belonging to the indigenous peoples and communities, Resolution 805 of 14 May 2012 By which the specific protocol focused on gender and women’s rights referred to in article 50 of Decree 4912 of 2011 is issued.

Type of instrument: Presidential decrees establishing a Protection Mechanism.
Status: (as of 1 January 2022)
Decree 4065 adopted on 31 October 2011
Decree 4912 adopted on 26 December 2011
Decree 2078 adopted on 7 December 2017
Resolution 805 adopted on 14 May 2012.

Comments on the instrument:

Decree 4065, which created the ‘National Protection Unit’ (NPU) is adequate, despite being created to not only protect human rights defenders, but rather various people at risk (e.g.politicians). The mechanism’s functioning is complex, particularly as it has gone through extensive reforms and extensions. Positive aspects include: mandatory risk assessments, importance given to international standards and to the MININ’s preventive strategy, and an aim to respond to the national context. 

Decree 2078 establishes a collective protection system that partially aligns with international standards (including the Model Law). 

Resolution 805 requires a gender-based approach to the protection of women and girls, and recognises (albeit briefly) increased risks faced by women human rights defenders. 

Decree 4633 implements specific elements to ensure protection measures applied to indigenous communities take into account relevant cultural, social, historical and contextual factors.

The NPU has some shortcomings: there doesn’t seem to be an independent review system, the appeal process is limited, some important protective measures (including the promotion of legal and administrative changes) are only recognised for collective protection, and groups eligible for collective protection are only those certified by the government.

Does the instrument contain specific provisions easily used to restrict human rights defenders’ rights?
No

Mechanism on the protection of human rights defenders established in the instrument?
Yes. Mechanism established in Article 1 of Dec. 4065

 


Comparison to the Model Law

Below is a short summary of the instrument compared to the Model Law. For additional information and analysis by ISHR on Colombia, click here.

Key elements of the protection mechanism:

Provision

Covered?

Analysis / articles

Definition of Human Rights Defender

PART

Dec 4912: 3.1, 3.2, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 

Cooperation with human rights defenders, civil society, and national and international human rights bodies

FULL

Dec 4065: 4.2, 4.8-4.10, 6.4, 6.5

 Dec 4912: 21, 26, 37, 49

Dec 2078:  2.4.1.5.12.4,  2.4.1.5.12.5

Res 805: 3(b), 5(a)

Dec 4633: 64

Training of mechanism’s personnel on HR and fundamental freedoms

PART

Dec 4912: 4, 17

Res 805: 3(c)

Dec 4633: 64

Periodic reviews with independent experts and CSOs on the functioning of the Mechanism

PART

Dec 4065: 14

Resources for adequate functioning of the Mechanism / transparency on resource usage 

FULL

Dec 4065: 1, 9, 11.16, 15, 21 

Dec 4912: 3.14, 32

Public acknowledgement of human rights defenders’ work and rights (promotion of UN Declaration)

NONE

 

Disseminate information on protection programmes for human rights defenders, Mechanism’s work

PART

Dec 4912: 39

Development of protocols and guidelines based on best practices to protect human rights defenders

PART

Dec 4065: 7.1

Dec 4912: 10

Assist investigations for prosecuting offences against human rights defenders

PART

Dec 4912: 28.1

Dec 2078:  2.4.1.5.5.7

Res 805: 7

Granting of protective measures based off a specific risk assessment

FULL

Dec 4065: 11.4-11.10, 16, 17.

Dec 4912: 35-39

Dec 2078:  2.4.1.5.4 –  2.4.1.5.7

Review / appeal of Mechanism decision before courts or independent authority

PART

Dec 4912: 45

Confidentiality and personal data protection

FULL

Dec 4065: 17.12
Dec 4912: 2.13, 47.3

Actions to achieve structural changes (annual reports on the situation of human rights defenders, advising government on laws and policies related to human rights defenders) 

PART

Dec 4912: 17

Dec 2078:  2.4.1.5.5.5,  2.4.1.5.5.6 

Res 805: 4(a) 

Quick access and downloads

Decree 4065 of 2011 Decree 2078 of 2017