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In Colombia, twice as many massacres were committed in 2020 as in 2019, says UN

Bogotá, Feb 23 (EFE) .- In Colombia, 76 massacres were committed with 292 murdered in 2020, which represents the highest number of massacres since 2014 and almost double the 36 that occurred the previous year, as documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in her annual report.

It is an “endemic violence” in which, despite the drop in the homicide rate -from 25 to 23.7 per 100,000 inhabitants-, in 2020 there was “an intensification of violence and an increase in control territorial and social rights by non-state armed groups and criminal groups “. This is stated in the report of the High Commissioner on the situation in Colombia, which will be presented by the director of that organization, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, before the Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 25. “Since 2018, the number of massacres has steadily increased, with 2020 being the year with the highest number recorded since 2014,” said the representative in Colombia of the High Commissioner, Juliette Rivero, in her presentation to the media. Among the almost 300 murdered are 23 women, six girls, 18 boys, seven members of indigenous peoples and 10 Afro-descendants. At the beginning of this year, which the Special Justice for Peace (JEP) already described as the most violent since the signing of the peace agreement, the UN documented six massacres, with 21 victims, and is verifying five more, while organizations such as Indepaz they collect very similar data with 14 massacres and 55 victims in 13 municipalities. “The trend of murders of defenders is very worrying and the State has the capacity and the possibility of adjusting its policies to prevent these cases of violence,” said the Bachelet representative. In addition, the violence also caused the massive displacement of more than 25,000 people, especially in the departments of Antioquia (northwest), Chocó (west) and Nariño (southwest), and almost 75,000 people suffered confinements imposed by armed groups beyond the dictated by the response to the covid-19 pandemic. Violence against social leaders and those demobilized from the peace agreement also continued, with 73 former FARC members being assassinated in 2020. “The absence of a comprehensive presence of the State in some regions of the country limits the State’s ability to fulfill its duty of protection of the population, including the right to life, economic, social and cultural rights, access to justice and the participation of the most vulnerable people and groups, “the representative concluded. ALMOST ONE HUNDRED OF SOCIAL LEADERS KILLED The UN office received information about almost 800 threats and attacks on social leaders, especially in rural areas, but also in Bogotá, and about 450 violations against the rights of journalists, with two homicide cases. Killings of human rights defenders also increased compared to 2019. The UN Office received complaints of 133 cases of homicides, of which 90 have been verified and another 25 are pending to prove. While in 2019, it counted 108. “This figure is representative of the cases known to the Office, and therefore, they constitute only a sample of the total number of murders that have occurred and do not account for the entire universe, “said Rivero before some data that the Colombian Government usually takes as definitive and that is well below the 182 homicides registered in 2020 by the Ombudsman’s Office. Town this month. This Monday, the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights of Colombia, Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez, made reference to the data on murders of social leaders, citing 66 in 2020 and relating them to illicit crops and other illegal activities of armed groups. “Although the majority of those responsible for these attacks and these murders are non-state armed groups or criminals, what is important is the duty of the State to protect these populations and these leaders, and I believe that measures can be taken to improve protection”, Rivero claimed this Tuesday in response to the counselor. RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT Faced with this increase in violence, the UN considers that the “most important thing is to put the peace agreement at the center of the Government’s response and to strengthen the mechanisms created by the peace agreement to respond to this situation.” Despite the efforts of the National Protection Unit (UNP), an entity attached to the Ministry of the Interior, the human rights office stressed, as Human Rights Watch did last week and social organizations have been denouncing, that the resolution of petitions protection are delayed and put defenders at risk. “We believe that 2021 is a year of great opportunities for Colombia,” Rivero considered, since the end of the mandate of the Truth Commission – created by the peace agreement – is expected, and therefore society and the Government have the opportunity “to receive, listen and know the truth delivered by the Commission.” “The present and future of the country will depend on this ability to understand the truth and appropriate it to build true reconciliation and full respect for human rights,” said the representative. “We trust in the capacity and will of the Government and the State as a whole to seek practical and effective solutions to these challenges, with the participation of civil society, reinforcing existing efforts,” Rivero concluded. (c) EFE Agency

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Juneau Officials Revise COVID-19 Travel, Testing Rules

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Juneau city leaders have approved changes to local COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers, including waiving a $250 testing fee for non-resident travelers who are tested at the airport and exempting “fully vaccinated” individuals from strict social distancing after testing.

The changes approved by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday are meant to be encouraging for COVID-conscious travelers, KTOO Public Media reported.

The rules define fully vaccinated as people who have gone more than two weeks since receiving a second dose of a two-dose vaccine or more than two weeks after receiving of one-dose vaccine.

People considered fully vaccinated must still adhere to testing protocols, according to a statement from the city. But they do not have to practice strict social distancing for five days after arrival.

The city describes strict social distancing, in part, as not socializing with anyone outside the person's household and not going indoors anywhere, except for one's home or the place they are staying.

Non-vaccinated travelers must arrive with proof of a negative coronavirus test result, or they can get tested at the airport when they arrive and observe strict social distancing while awaiting results.

The rules expire at 12:01 a.m. on May 1, unless other action is taken first.

City Manager Rorie Watt said at the assembly meeting that officials “won’t be shy” about notifying the community if plans need to change.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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