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Indigenous Peoples of 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.

    February 12, 2014
    By Duncan Garrow, Amnesty International Toronto (AITO) Board member, member of AI Toronto Speakers Bureau, member Church of the Redeemer Action Circle.

    By any account the evening had already been a great success. Upwards of 100 people braved the elements on a chilly Friday night to fill all of the available seats for Weaving Hope, a night in support of Indigenous people in Colombia. Many were attending their first Amnesty event, and enthusiastically joined in the many creative actions. Painted hand prints were made, photos of solidarity were taken, and petitions were signed. The audience listened attentively to the poetry of Ojibway writer Art Solomon and shared in the smudging and blessing ceremony conducted by Clayton Shirt. 

    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.

    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.

    February 14, 2013

    Yolanda Becerra and Gloria Amparo Suárez are amazing women.

    Amidst an ongoing, vicious armed conflict in Colombia, a dirty war that the rest of the world has largely chosen to downplay or ignore, Yolanda and Gloria face fear on a daily basis yet steadfastly refuse to be paralysed by it.

    Via an organization known as the OFP (in English, the Popular Women’s Organization), Yolanda and Gloria have provided a haven for women whose families have been devastated by attacks, disappearances and killings – many perpetrated by army-backed paramilitaries. On behalf of these women, and knowing the danger of doing so, Gloria and Yolanda have worked relentlessly for truth, justice and reparations.

    Gloria and Yolanda should be applauded for these efforts, so urgently needed if women’s human rights and the rule of law are to become more than a pipe dream in Colombia. Instead they face persecution and a mother’s nightmare - the threat of harm to their children.

    November 29, 2012

    Amnesty International Canada's Colombia campaigner Kathy Price reports on the urgent crisis facing Indigenous Women in Colombia.

    “Each sentence that you send to the government of Colombia, every letter that you send gives us strength and helps us to continue fighting for our lives. It’s like a kind of shield. The government knows you are watching what happens to us. That’s why today they are being a bit more careful. Because they know you are watching.”

    A.I. Canada campaigner Kathy Price (left) met Dora Tavera on a recent mission to Colombia. 

    This is the heartfelt, empowering message to Amnesty Canada activists from Dora Tavera, a Pijao Indigenous woman who works with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia. She delivers it in a moving 5-minute video recorded by Amnesty International Canada during our recent observation mission to the South American country.

    November 08, 2012

    Threats and violence against Indigenous Peoples are intensifying amidst Colombia's ongoing armed conflict.

    Guerrilla groups, state security forces and paramilitaries are responsible for killings, enforced disappearances and kidnappings, sexual abuse of women and recruitment of child soldiers. Thousands of Indigenous people have been forced from their land because they live in areas of intense military conflict and that are valued for their natural resources. Indigenous leaders and communities that try to defend their land rights commonly experience threats, killings and mass displacement.

    The vast majority of these crimes have not been investigated. Lack of justice fuels further abuse.

    The situation is nothing less than a human rights emergency.

    According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and Colombia's Constitutional Court, more than a third of 102 distinct Indigenous nations in Colombia face the risk of being wiped out as a result of the armed conflict, the impacts of large-scale economic projects and lack of state support.

    August 08, 2012

    When the El Cercado dam opened in November 2010, its Colombian project managers trumpeted it as an engineering triumph built entirely with national know-how.

    Moreover, the project was touted as a way to help combat the effects of recurrent droughts in La Guajira, a north-eastern region.

    But for the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples native to the area’s Sierra de Santa Marta mountains, the dam’s arrival signalled a devastating change in their way of life accompanied by a series of serious human rights abuses.

    From 2002 onwards, Wiwa communities living in and near the planned construction area suffered a consistent pattern of intimidation, destruction of homes, attacks against places of cultural significance and threats and killings of their spiritual and community leaders, carried out by the security forces operating in alliance with paramilitary forces. Guerrilla groups operating in the region were also responsible for killings and threats against members of the Wiwa population.

    By the time construction on the dam began in 2006, many members of Wiwa Indigenous communities were forcibly displaced from their homes.

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