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Colombia

    April 07, 2014

    The Canadian Parliament must take a close look at the extreme violence facing Indigenous peoples in Colombia.

    Canada has entered into a free trade agreement with Colombia which promotes investment by Canadian companies seeking to benefit from a resource extraction boom in the South American country. Under the agreement, the government of Canada is obliged to submit an annual report to Parliament on human rights effects.

    It's time for Canada to take this responsibility seriously.

    Amnesty International has documented a pattern of violence against Indigenous leaders and communities in Colombia who oppose the imposition of economic projects, including resource extraction, that will impact on their land.

    Here's one example.

    Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez is a prominent Indigenous human rights defender who visited Canada in 2010 to draw attention to the crisis facing Indigenous peoples in Colombia.

    March 25, 2014

    Colombia’s government is failing to address the country’s critical human rights situation said Amnesty International today ahead of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ annual review of the country.  

    Despite on-going peace talks in Havana between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest guerrilla group, human rights violations and abuses continue unabated.

    Tomorrow, High Commissioner Navi Pillay will present her annual review of the situation in Colombia to the UN Human Rights Council.

    “The peace talks represent the best opportunity in over a decade to put an end to the 50-year-old armed conflict. However, the warring parties continue to be responsible for appalling serious human rights violations and abuses. These include forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, abductions, and enforced disappearances,” said Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International’s researcher on Colombia.

    March 24, 2014

    Human rights, development, and labour groups have serious misgivings about the Canadian government’s commitment to carry out a meaningful assessment of the human rights impact of its controversial free trade agreement with Colombia, as is legally stipulated by annual reporting requirements in the agreement.

    Concerns were heightened when it came to light that government analysis for the 2014 report, due on or before May 15, would be based in part on an online consultation that lasts just six working days. A call for submissions by “interested parties” was quietly posted on a government webpage on March 19, 2014. The deadline given for submissions is six working days later on March 26, 2014.  Canadian organizations with a long history of involvement with Colombia had been asking government officials for months to share information about the plans for consultation, including timelines, deadlines and how to participate. These details were not provided until after the unreasonably short consultation period had actually been launched.

    February 07, 2014

    This week, two experts on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Colombia were invited to address the Canadian All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

    The presentation by a representative of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia and a Colombian Deputy Justice was part of an ongoing campaign to focus Canadian attention on a humanitarian crisis that Colombia's highest court has described as both grave and invisible.

    According to the findings of the Colombian Constitutional Court, more than one-third of Indigenous nations in Colombia are facing an imminent threat of physical or cultural destruction. Caught in the cross-fire of an ongoing armed conflict over their lands and resources, the Indigenous peoples of Colombia have been targets of assassinations, massacres, and widespread forced displacement.

    January 20, 2014
    Flaminio Onogama, Indigenous leader from Colombia, visiting Hampton High School, New Brunswick, Canada. Flaminio is in the foreground, at right. Photo @ Kathy Price

    By Kathy Price, Campaigner for Americas, Amnesty International Canada

    A threatened Indigenous leader in Colombia needs your help. 

    See our Urgent Action

    There are many things I remember about my trip to the Maritimes in 2010 with Flaminio Onogama Gutierrez. I remember the soft-spoken, yet passionate words of the Embera Chami Indigenous leader as he met with community activists in Saint John and Hampton, explaining about the bombing of Indigenous communities in Colombia, the terror that made families run for their lives. I remember his warm smile as he talked to high school students and helped them to understand the human rights crisis in Colombia and Canada’s connections. It is so important to teach the next generation, he told me.

    October 24, 2013

    The decision of Colombia’s Constitutional Court to throw out reforms of the country’s military justice system is a setback for government attempts to shield from scrutiny human rights violations committed by the security forces, said Amnesty International.

    The new reforms would have ensured that members of the security forces suspected of criminal responsibility in human rights violations could evade justice.

    “The government has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the fight against impunity, but this reform would have exacerbated Colombia’s already sky high levels of impunity,” said Amnesty International’s Colombia researcher Marcelo Pollack.

    The reform of the military justice system significantly increased the power of the security forces to redefine crimes so they could be heard before a military rather than civilian court.

    October 22, 2013

    By Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

     

    Witnesses report that security forces fired tear gas canisters filled with shrapnel directly at demonstrators.

    Dozens of indigenous protesters have been injured when Colombian security forces appear to have used excessive force against demonstrations. © LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images

    October 21, 2013

    There are serious ongoing concerns for the safety of indigenous protesters in Colombia amid escalating violence against them by the security forces and after their leaders received a death threat from a right-wing paramilitary group, Amnesty International said.

    Dozens of indigenous protesters, including many children, have already been injured when Colombian security forces appear to have used excessive force against the demonstrations, which started on 12 October and continue in several regions of the country.

    Fears of further violence have been compounded in the past week after the Rastrojos paramilitary group called for “social cleansing” of indigenous leaders and groups involved in the protests.

    “Most of the evidence gathered by Amnesty International in several parts of Colombia points to a deeply worrying and largely disproportionate use of force against the indigenous protesters by the police and the armed forces,” said Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International Researcher on Colombia.

    September 19, 2013

    The Colombian government must back its public support for human rights with action, Amnesty International said in an oral statement delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council today.

    The Colombian authorities have accepted a number of recommendations issued by member states at the Council: many of them are devoted to fight impunity and effectively protect civilians caught up in the conflict.

    “The public acceptance of these recommendations contrasts with some government policies and its actions,” said Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International’s researcher on Colombia.

    While Amnesty International applauds Colombia’s commitment to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, it reiterates its concern over a new law that broadens the scope of military jurisdiction.

    According to Amnesty International, the security forces, acting alone or in collusion with paramilitaries, have been responsible for serious abuses, including unlawful killings, forced displacement, torture, forced disappearances, and sexual violence.

    July 26, 2013
    Adolfo Ich’s Grave in “La Uníon”
    Ground-breaking ruling paves the way for Indigenous Guatemalans to have their day in a Canadian court

    On 22 July 2013, Amnesty International Canada welcomed a precedent-setting decision by Justice Carole Brown of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto.
    In her carefully reasoned judgment, Justice Brown affirmed that claims brought by 13 Guatemalan Indigenous people against Canadian company HudBay Minerals and its subsidiaries should be permitted to go to trial. HudBay and its subsidiaries had attempted to prevent the claims from going forward, arguing that a parent corporation can never be held liable for murder, shootings and rapes allegedly committed by security personnel employed by a Guatemalan subsidiary.

    June 12, 2013

    Members of Colombia ’s Congress should reject a proposed law whose purpose is to give greater powers to the military justice system and which will shield members of the armed forces and the police from justice for crimes under international law, Amnesty International said today.

    The law, due to be debated soon, will entrench impunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Colombia ’ssecurity forces.
    The security forces, either acting alone or in collusion with paramilitaries, and guerrilla groups continue to be responsible for serious abuses, including unlawful killings, forced displacement, torture, abductions or forceddisappearances, and sexual violence.

    Very few people have been brought to justice for these human rights breaches, and the proposed law will insulate Colombia ’s security forces from prosecution before civilian courts.

    June 07, 2013

    The Colombian authorities must ensure the safety of a human rights defender and his family after an anonymous source warned local police that paramilitaries are intending to kill them, Amnesty International said.

    On 3 June, the police commander of the Department of Sucre, in northern Colombia, received an email saying paramilitaries were intending to kill human rights defender Juan David Díaz, his wife and "another person close to the family".

    “This is by no means the first time that a human rights defender from the area has been threatened, while some have even been killed. The Colombian authorities should take all threats seriously and ensure appropriate security is provided to those at risk,” said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International.

    Juan David Díaz is a member of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes (Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, MOVICE), a coalition of civil society organizations campaigning for truth, justice and reparation for the victims of the armed conflict.

    May 21, 2013

    This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Colombia for talks hosted by Colombia’s President about a new trade bloc, the Pacific Alliance. The Prime Minister is reportedly “sounding out” what the trade bloc has to offer.

    In Canada, Members of Parliament are hearing concerns from Amnesty International and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia about Canada’s human rights obligations under its existing free trade agreement with Colombia.

    What:             Press conference of Amnesty International and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) with interventions by

                          Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International  and

                          Maria Patricia Tobón Yagarí, lawyer with ONIC’s Territory and Natural Resources Council

    May 14, 2013

    by Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada's campaigner on Colombia

    Photo:Though he did not dare risk giving his name, this Indigenous man wanted to share an appeal that cannot be ignored: “No” to human rights violations. We need help. “Yes” to life!...by Juan Pablo Gutierrez 

    The reality of what is happening in Colombia, the spectacularly beautiful and diverse country with whom Canada is now linked via a free trade deal, is hard to take in. The immensity of it is shocking. According to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, at least a third of Indigenous Peoples in the South American country are threatened with physical or cultural “extermination” amidst armed conflict in their territory by third parties and grave human rights violations linked to efforts to take control of their resource-rich lands.

    You can raise your voice for action

    March 19, 2013

    by Kathy Price, Amnesty International Canada's campaigner on Latin America

    Even if you didn’t listen to the words, the video images spoke volumes at the hearing on Colombia on March 14, 2013, at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington. 

    Maria Patricia Tobón Yagarí, of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), sat alone but with enormous dignity and strength of purpose as she spoke out about the ongoing violence and denial of human rights which threaten the very survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia.

    The situation is so desperate that an increasing number of suicides by Indigenous women are being reported, testified Ms. Tobón, underscoring the risks posed by a lethal mix of armed conflict and the imposition of resource extraction on Indigenous lands.

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