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    June 19, 2014
    Street protest for the survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia

    By Kathy Price, Colombia Campaigner

    It was two years ago that courageous Indigenous women and men in Colombia sent photo messages to Canada to tell us about deadly assaults on their lives and lands.

    Photo messages like the one from this Kankuamo woman - who writes "We want to live in peace on our lands" - put faces on an acute yet hidden human rights emergency. The very survival of more than a third of Indigenous peoples in Colombia, including the Kankuamo, is in jeopardy amidst attacks, forced displacement and the imposition of resource extraction projects that are increasing with promotion by Canada’s free trade agreement with Colombia.

    Indigenous rights defenders in Colombia, many of them threatened with death for their vital work, urged us to speak out with them. In attention-grabbing numbers, you have done just that!

    June 09, 2014

    The historic declaration agreed between the Colombian government and the country’s main guerrilla group, FARC, will not contribute to a lasting peace unless those responsible for human rights abuses, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, are brought to justice, said Amnesty International.

    The 10 principles on victims’ rights contains no commitment to bring to justice those who displaced, tortured, killed, abducted, disappeared or raped millions of Colombians over the past five decades.

    “The fact that the government and the FARC have made a commitment to place victims’ rights at the centre of the peace talks is a great step forward. However, the devil is in the detail. Any agreement that fails to ensure those suspected of criminal responsibility for abuses face the courts will be incomplete and fragile,” said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International.

    April 29, 2014
    Canadians deliver 65,000 messages in support of Indigenous peoples in Colombia

    by Kathy Price, Campaigner for the Americas, Amnesty International Canada

    A message that can't be ignored

    Today we brought the faces and voices of concerned Canadians to Parliament Hill, along with an urgent message: Canada's free trade deal with Colombia creates special obligations to protect the rights and survival of threatened Indigenous peoples in the South American country.

    On the steps of Parliament, we displayed beautiful, heartfelt photo messages from activists across Canada. Then we went inside to present the government with a box jam-packed with petitions - thousands and thousands of them. In total, more than 65,000 people signed actions calling for immediate measures to protect the rights and survival of Indigenous peoples on their lands in Colombia.

    April 29, 2014

    Released 00:01 GMT 30 April, 2014

    Colombia: Presidential candidates must champion human rights

    Human rights and the fight to end impunity in Colombia must be a high priority for all candidates in the presidential elections scheduled for 25 May, Amnesty International said today in a public letter addressed to the five contenders.

    “Human rights should be the cornerstone of any political platform, especially given the backdrop of the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas.

    “A long-sought opportunity for peace may be looming, but the next president of Colombia must not bargain away human rights in the negotiations. The candidates should be clear that a lasting peace can only be built on justice and respect for human rights.”

    April 28, 2014

    (Ottawa, ON) – Two weeks before the Canadian government must submit its 2014 report on the human rights effects of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Amnesty International and the Assembly of First Nations will hold a press conference to speak out about the worsening human rights emergency that threatens the very survival of scores of Indigenous peoples in Colombia, many living in areas earmarked for resource extraction.

    The press conference in Ottawa comes a day after Indigenous, labour and environmental organizations in Bogota, Colombia make public a report expressing concern about the impact of Canadian mining projects and underscoring the responsibilities of Canada to ensure Canadian-based companies uphold human rights.

    April 07, 2014

    Over 9,000 Amnesty supporters have spoken up about the grave danger facing Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez, following death threats and the assassination of two of his family members.

    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.


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