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Working Group(s) / Area(s) of Work: 
Women & ESCR
Strategic Litigation

The decades-long armed conflict in Colombia has resulted in numerous deaths, injuries, and broader trauma and irreversible alteration of the fabric of Colombian society. One of the most affected populations in this conflict has been that of the people who have seen themselves forcibly displaced...

The Secretariat on Policies Affecting Displaced Persons requested the Court to issue a judgment concerning the situation of the displaced population amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, given that the State response to the pandemic had not included a category for displaced persons. Instead, the State response and envisioned aid only included older persons and persons experiencing poverty and vulnerability more broadly.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia (“the Court”) used its judicial review powers to assess the situation of displaced persons in Colombia. Around 1,150 family groups filed tutela or protection claims with their respective municipalities regarding the state’s duty to protect them due to their status as displaced persons. They requested aid, but the state denied aid or gave it for an incomplete amount of time, citing budgetary constraints. 

The Court surveyed the constitutional and international legal frameworks that protect women HRDs as subjects of special protection derived from the vulnerability linked to their situation of displacement. Among other international and regional instruments protecting the rights to defend human rights, the Court discussed the Declaration of the Rights of Human Rights Defenders (1999) and Organization of American States (OAS) Resolution 1671 (1999).

This case resolves an auto action to protect the rights of the displaced Afro-Colombian population in conformance with the court’s prior declaration in the T-025 decision of 2004 of an “unconstitutional state of affairs” around the situation of the forcibly displaced population.

Auto 092’s purpose is twofold: (1) a declaratory judgment as to the ways in which displaced women’s rights are structurally violated during armed conflict; and (2) the adoption of four comprehensive measures for the guaranteeing of the rights of women displaced by armed conflict and the prevention of the disproportionate impact based on gender as a result of the armed conflict and forced displacement. 

In this Auto, the Court was gravely concerned with the threat that internal displacement posed to the existence of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia. The Court attributed this threat to three main factors: (1) rupture of structures and community disintegration; (2) culture shock outside of their ancestral lands; (3) getting caught in the middle of the violence. 

Under Colombian constitutional law, children must receive priority in care and safeguarding of their rights. Despite this, over fifty percent of the internally displaced population in Colombia is made up of children and adolescents below the age of 18. The Court in this case found that the governmental response has been largely inexistent and inefficient in resolving the myriad violations of childrens’ human rights.

The Court begins with an analysis of why human rights defenders are targeted during armed conflict and displacement, highlighting the following main factors: (a) identified as "informers" or "informants" by the armed factions; (b) the type of information they handle by virtue of their organizational positions; (c) they are seen as obstacles to the aspirations of social and territorial penetration of the armed groups; and (d) their social visibility, which armed actors use to make their victimization an instrument for intimidation.