The Risk of Returning Home

Violence and Threats against Displaced People Reclaiming Land in Colombia

Authored by: Max Schoening

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Migration, Political Transitions, Transitional Justice
Country: Colombia
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Year: 2013
Citation: Schoening, Max. The Risk of Returning Home: Violence and Threats against Displaced People Reclaiming Land in Colombia. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2013.

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Executive Summary

The land restitution program represents the most important human rights initiative of the Santos administration. If implemented effectively, it will help thousands of families who have been devastated by the conflict to return home and rebuild their lives, while also undercutting the power of armed groups and criminal mafias. Already, the government’s Restitution Unit has made notable gains in carrying out the law in some regions. Despite this progress, major obstacles stand in the way of effective implementation of the law. IDPs who have sought to recover land through the Victims Law and other restitution mechanisms thus far have faced widespread abuses tied to their efforts, including killings, new incidents of forced displacement, and death threats. Since January 2012, more than 500 land restitution claimants and leaders have reported being threatened. This report—based on research between February 2012 and July 2013, including hundreds of interviews, more than 130 of them with land restitution claimants and leaders—details those abuses, assesses the government’s response to date, and recommends additional steps authorities should take.