The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Colombia

By Vexen Crabtree 2018

#argentina #brazil #Colombia #colombia_human_rights #human_rights #international_law #politics #uruguay #venezuela

Republic of Colombia

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index78th best
LocationSouth America, The Americas
Life Expectancy72.83yrs (2017)2

Colombia does relatively well in ensuring human rights and freedom, compared to many other countries. Colombia comes in the best 20 in terms of speed of uptake of HR treaties3 (amongst the best in The Americas). It does better than average in LGBT equality4, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)5 (but bad for The Americas), freethought6, its nominal commitment to Human Rights7 and in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports8 (but amongst the worst in The Americas). Since 2015 it has removed many artificial barriers to LGBT equality in areas of marriage and adoption13; it is just the 4th country in South America to legalize same-sex marriage14. Colombia does not succeed in everything, however. Colombia does worse than average for its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice9 (one of the highest in The Americas), opposing gender inequality10, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms11 (one of the worst in The Americas) and in supporting press freedom12 (one of the worst in The Americas). Human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and other community activists face death threats and violence, mostly from guerrillas and successor groups. Perpetrators of these abuses are rarely held accountable"13. Progress is always going to be difficult in a country where the richest 1% hold 20% of the country's entire income15.

1. Colombia's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to The Americas (2020)16
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank16
3Costa Rica36.5
16El Salvador66.7
The Americas Avg73.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)16
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank16
57Bosnia & Herzegovina63.2
61El Salvador66.7
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark17. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu17.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe17, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia17.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Colombia stated:

Human rights defenders continued to face attacks, threats and harassment because of their work; defenders of the land, territory and environment were particularly at risk. Killings and threats targeting former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia €“ Army of the People (FARC-EP) combatants persisted. Attacks on media workers and outlets continued, threatening freedom of expression. Excessive and unnecessary use of force by state officials was reported. Indigenous leaders and defenders were attacked and killed and, in areas where armed opposition groups continued to operate, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities were forcibly displaced and some faced humanitarian crises. A final report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission acknowledged that violations of reproductive rights had been committed during the decades-long armed conflict (1964-2016). Several former army members, civilians and former FARC-EP commanders were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the conflict before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Abortion was decriminalized. Attacks on LGBTI people continued. Gender-based violence persisted and survivors faced ongoing barriers to accessing justice, truth and reparation. Venezuelan refugee women faced violence and discrimination on grounds of nationality and gender.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)18

After 52 years of conflict, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia demobilized after an agreement was reached, however "civilians continue to suffer serious abuses by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and paramilitary successor groups that emerged after a demobilization process a decade ago. ... Human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and other community activists face death threats and violence, mostly from guerrillas and successor groups. Perpetrators of these abuses are rarely held accountable"13. The agreement explicitly sets the ground for investigations into human rights abuses from FARC and members of the armed forces13.

Along with 11 others, Colombia signed the Lima Declaration in 2017, condemning "the assault on democratic order and the systematic violation of human rights in Venezuela"19.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better8
The Americas Avg-0.8
World Avg-1.9
(one of the worst in The Americas)Colombia is 60th in the world regarding commentary in Human Rights Watch reports.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better7
2=Costa Rica23
50=New Zealand20
The Americas Avg16.5
World Avg15.1
Colombia comes 51st in the world in terms of its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better3
Avg Yrs/Treaty3
5Costa Rica4.05
The Americas Avg8.45
World Avg10.02
In terms of speed of uptake of HR treaties, Colombia comes 4th-best in the world.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better11
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
110Ivory Coast110
The Americas Avg72.4
World Avg79.7
(amongst the highest in The Americas)Colombia is 111st in the world regarding supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)20

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better12
The Americas Avg2853
World Avg3249
(one of the worst in The Americas)Colombia is positioned 128th in the world regarding supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index21

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims22
58=S. Africa0.28
The Americas Avg0.25
World Avg0.65
With regard to eliminating modern slavery, Colombia ranks 53rd in the world.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory23. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends24. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life25. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves26.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery27. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity28. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.29. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi30, Eritrea30, Indonesia31) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery32.

For more, see:

Colombia practices conscription, which involves a mandatory period of service in the military. But the Walk Free Foundation reports that this sometimes becomes slave labour as some 'conscripts' are assigned to lengthy and arduous work which is clearly non-military in nature33 such as public infrastructure and civil construction work.

3. Gender Equality

The 1950s saw a late rush of 43 countries, including Colombia and many developing nations, move to cease preventing women from voting. Colombia has made some steps towards ending gender inequality but much more needs to be done.

Gender-based violence is widespread in Colombia. Lack of training and poor implementation of treatment protocols impede timely access to medical services and create obstacles for women and girls seeking post-violence care. Perpetrators of gender-based violence crimes are rarely brought to justice. In July 2015, "femicide"-defined, in part, as the murder of a woman because of her gender-became a crime. The law established comprehensive measures to prevent and prosecute gender-based violence, including recognizing the rights of victims and their relatives to specialized legal assistance.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)13


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
87Sri Lanka0.39
90S. Africa0.39
The Americas Avg0.39
World Avg0.36
Colombia ranks 89th in the world in terms of opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases
Lower is better
2New Zealand34.435
The Americas Avg82.90
World Avg83.93
Colombia comes 40th in the world when it comes to the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators).

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
The Americas Avg1947
World Avg1930
Colombia is positioned 99th in the world with regard to the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions
Lower is better
68=S. Africa38
72=Dominican Rep.41
The Americas Avg29.7
World Avg36.8
(one of the worst in The Americas)In terms of its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, Colombia ranks 72nd in the world.

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews37,38,39,40. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East41, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews42,43. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"44. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males45.

For more, see:

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

Since 2015 there have been several positive steps to remove artificial legal prejudice against LGBT folk; it is no longer permissible to bar someone from adopting a child because of their sexual orientation and in 2016 the court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry13. In 2016, Colombia became the fourth country in Catholic-majority South America to legalize same-sex marriage, following Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, although direction had to be forced through via the courts, who stated that "all people are free to choose independently to start a family in keeping with their sexual orientation receiving equal treatment under the constitution and the law"14.

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
18=New Zealand63
The Americas Avg26.1
World Avg12.6
Regarding LGBT equality, Colombia ranks 21st in the world.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence46. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws47. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries46. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.3. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
53=Central African Rep.2.5
53=San Marino2.5
53=Costa Rica2.5
The Americas Avg2.7
World Avg3.0
Colombia ranks 44th in the world when it comes to freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights48. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish49. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era50 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted51. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief52. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands6,53 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia6,54.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed55. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief49, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion56 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"57 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see: