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Colombia: Indigenous peoples in Chocó in danger

    Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 16:15
    Wounaan community in danger

    Photo Credit: Amnesty International

    Download PDF of the most recent update to UA 178/17 Colombia

     

    Clashes between paramilitary groups, the National Liberation Army and state security forces continue to violate the rights of the Wounaan and Embera Indigenous peoples in Chocó, western Colombia, generating an imminent humanitarian and security crisis.

    On 20 August at 1:45pm, an armed confrontation between troops of the Colombian armed forces and the National Liberation Army (Ejército De Liberación Nacional, ELN) was reported 700 metres from the Wounaan territory of Puerto Olave, on the San Juan River. Security forces also recently informed the community about the presence of land mines in surrounding territories. Indigenous organizations told Amnesty International that this latest confrontation and the alleged presence of land mines has caused them to fear for their safety.

    At around 10am on 22 August, another armed confrontation was reported between the ELN and the Gaitanistas Self-Defenses of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, AGC) inside the communities of JUUN DUR (a Wounaan Indigenous reserve) and QUIPARALITO (an Embera Indigenous reserve) on the banks of the Truandó River in Riosucio, northern Chocó. Ana María Mepaquito, a 22-year-old Indigenous woman and mother of three young children, died as a result of the crossfire. The members of these Indigenous communities report that they cannot leave their land for fear of being detained at the checkpoints on the river manned by both the paramilitary groups and the Colombian National Army, in addition to the antipersonnel mines surrounding their territories.

    In addition to being confined within their territories, the people of JUUN DUUR and QUIPARALITO cannot go hunting, which is their main food source and transportation of food reaching the communities is limited, which has led to a serious humanitarian situation. The Indigenous round table of Chocó has also stated that the neighbouring communities of Peñas Blancas, Jagual, Marcial and Pichindé are at imminent risk of forced displacement due to clashes between armed groups. Finally, Amnesty International continues to receive reports about increasing forced recruitment among Indigenous girls and boys in the area. 

    To date, the Colombian government has not taken the necessary measures to enable humanitarian aid to arrive, and there is still a lack of comprehensive State presence in the territory. More than 100 Embera people from the municipality of Riosucio, Chocó have mobilized in solidarity to Bogotá to protest in front of the presidential palace, demanding that the government take urgent measures to guarantee their life, dignity and protection.

     

    Please send a letter and/ or email without delay.

    * Call on the authorities to ensure urgent humanitarian relief to the confined communities of JUUN DUR and QUIPARALITO and provide protection to the neighbouring communities of Peñas Blancas, Jagual, Marcial and Pichindé.

    * Insist on a comprehensive state presence in the Truandó and San Juan river basins to guarantee the protection, security and free mobility of Indigenous Peoples in the area.

     

    Here is the contact information you need:

     

    President

    Juan Manuel Santos

    Presidente de la República

    Palacio de Nariño,

    Carrera 8 No.7-26

    Bogotá, Colombia

    Email:                contacto@presidencia.gov.co

    Salutation:         Dear Mr. President/ Estimado Señor Presidente

     

    Director of Unit for Attention and Reparation of Victims

    Yolanda Pinto 

    Calle 16 # 6-66. Edificio Avianca Piso 19

    Bogotá, Colombia      

    Fax:                 011 57 1 426 1111

    Salutation:       Dear Mrs. Director / Estimada Señora Directora

     

    Please send a copy to:

     

    Governor of Chocó

    Jhoany Carlos Alberto

    Cra. 7 No. 24-76 Piso 3

    Quibdo, Chocó, Colombia     

    Fax:                 011 57 (4) 6738900 Ext 1

    Email:              gobernacion@choco.gov.co  

    Salutation:       Dear Mr. Governor/

     

    Ombudsperson

    Carrera 9 Núm.16 – 21

    Bogotá, Colombia

    Email:                asuntosdefensor@defensoria.gov.co

     

    His Excellency Nicolás Lloreda Ricaurte

    Ambassador for Colombia

    360 Albert Street, Suite 1002

    Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7

    Canada

    Fax:                  1 (613) 230-4416

    Email:               embajada@embajadacolombia.ca

     

    Additional Information:

    On 16 August, Amnesty International released a public statement on the situation in Chocó, expressing concern at the grave humanitarian situation in the department. In the first half of 2017, Indigenous communities in Chocó complained that there have been at least two paramilitary incursions in their territories. The first took place on 6 March and caused the massive displacement of families and the confinement of nearby communities in Peña Azul (more informtion). The second took place on 18 April in the collective territory of Jiguamiandó, near the Pueblo Nuevo Humanitarian Zone (more information).

    Crimes against international law and human rights violations persist in the department of Chocó, including the selective killing of members of Afro-Colombian communities and Indigenous peoples, forced collective displacements, the confinement of communities and forced recruitment of boys and girls.

    Indigenous peoples in Chocó live facing constant threats and violence from paramilitary armed groups, so in 2009, the Constitutional Court of Colombia issued Resolution 004, urging the Colombian government to take measures, with an ethnic perspective, to design and develop a public policy on enforced displacement, aiming to protecting life, freedom and cultural diversity, among other rights.

    Amnesty International has already publicly denounced the increase in the number of killings of Indigenous leaders in Colombia, highlighting the shortcomings in the implementation of the peace process. “The situation of extreme risk which Indigenous communities in Colombia are facing is alarming. These crimes highlight one of the main challenges in the implementation of the peace process: the protection of the communities living in the areas which have been most affected by the armed conflict and the need to guarantee that these deplorable acts do not go unpunished”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International (more information).

    The name Wounaan means ‘people, persons or a people’. The Wounaan speak a language known as ‘wounaaan meu’, which belongs to the Chocoan language family (comprising Indigenous languages from western Colombia and southwestern Panama. The Colombian National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Nacional de Estadística, DANE) recorded in its 2005 census 9,066 people who identify as belonging to the Wounaan community, of whom 50.3% were male (4,563 people) and 49.7% were female (4,503 people). The community is primarily based in the department of Chocó, where they make up 84.1% of the population, followed by 15.3% (1,390 people) in Valle del Cauca and 0.3% (27 people) in Bogotá, therefore 99.8% of the population are based in these two departments and the capital. The Wounaan make up 0.7% of the total number of Indigenous people in Colombia.

    The Wounaan community lives with constant threats and violence from paramilitary armed groups. In 2009, the Constitutional Court of Colombia issued Resolution 004, urging the Colombian government to take measures, with an ethnic perspective, to design and develop a public policy on enforced displacement, aiming to protecting life, freedom and cultural diversity, among other rights.

    Amnesty International has already publicly denounced the increase in the number of killings of Indigenous leaders in Colombia, highlighting the shortcomings in the implementation of the peace process. “The situation of extreme risk which Indigenous communities in Colombia face is alarming. These crimes highlight one of the main challenges in the implementation of the peace process: the protection of the communities living in the areas which have been most affected by the armed conflict and the need to guarantee that these deplorable acts do not go unpunished”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International (for further information).

     

    If you wish to receive updates on this case, email urgentaction@amnesty.ca. In the subject line, write “Keep me updated on UA 178/17 "Colombia".

     

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