Indigenous Peoples of Colombia
In the face of a wave of forced displacement in several parts of the country the Colombian state must guarantee the rights of displaced persons and provide protection to several communities that remain at risk, Amnesty International said today.
Between 17 and 20 January more than 1,000 people have been forcibly displaced and many more are at risk of displacement due to clashes between different armed groups in the areas of Bajo Cauca, Southern Córdoba and the boundaries between Boyacá and Casanare.
The killing of six Indigenous people in the past week raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of the measures implemented by the government to advance the peace process in Colombia, says Amnesty International.
In the past week, six Indigenous people have been killed in the departments of Chocó, Cauca and Nariño, affecting the Wounan, Nasa and Awá Indigenous Peoples, communities who have historically been seriously affected by the armed conflict.
On 19 April, the leader of the Kite Kiwe Indigenous council in Timbío, Cauca, south-eastern Colombia, was killed after being shot repeatedly by a contract killer while leaving a community meeting. Gerson Acosta had been granted protection measures by the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección) due to threats he had received related to his work as a human rights defender.
Several days earlier, on 16 April, Pedro Nel Pai Pascal, Jhonny Marcelo Cuajiboy Pascal and Ever Goyes, members of the Awá Indigenous community, were killed in the department of Nariño.
A spike in the number of human rights activists killed in the last month highlights the continuing dangers faced by those exposing ongoing abuses, said Amnesty International today as the much-delayed talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) get under way in Ecuador.
The organization is calling on the government to immediately provide effective protection to at-risk human rights defenders after at least 10 were killed in January alone; nearly double last year’s monthly average.
“The peace process in Colombia is a bright light at the end of a long and dark tunnel that has already brought some tangible benefits to many Colombians. However, unless the killings of activists stop, this will leave an indelible stain on any resulting peace accord,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“These brave activists are being silenced by powerful local and regional economic and political interests, as well as various armed groups, including paramilitaries, for defending their rights or exposing the country’s tragic reality.”
By Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada
June 2nd is a day of painful remembering for me. I will never forget the phone call 15 years ago that delivered heart-stopping news. Embera Katío indigenous leader Kimy Pernía Domicó had been abducted by paramilitaries in northern Colombia. He was never seen again, despite courageous efforts by his people to find and rescue him.
Kimy won many friends in Canada. I feel honoured to be among them.
Two years before he was disappeared, Kimy travelled from his rainforest home to our nation's capital to testify to a committee of MPs charged with oversight of foreign affairs. He told them about the devastating impact of a hydroelectric megaproject, built with financing from Canada’s Export Development Corporation.
The dam had flooded the land and food crops of Embera Katío communities. Fish stocks had disappeared bringing hunger and disease. Kimy's young grandchild was among the sick.
The numbers are staggering. Some six million people have been forced to flee their homes in Colombia during decades of armed conflict characterized by horrendous human rights violations against civilians.
In the process, at least 8 million hectares of land have been abandoned or misappropriated.
At the same time, Colombian authorities have granted licences to mining and other companies looking to exploit these lands and their natural resources, failing to guarantee the internationally-recognized right of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples to decision-making about their territory without fear of harm.
More than one third of Indigenous peoples in Colombia are threatened with "extermination", according to the country's highest court, and face an "emergency as serious as it is invisible." This crisis is fueled by violent incursions into Indigenous territory, forced displacement and the imposition of megaprojects.
Canadian resource and mining companies have secured government permits to operate in Colombia, amidst complaints by Indigenous peoples that their right to decision-making about projects that will impact their land is routinely denied. Indeed expressing opposition to projects brings threats and attacks. Through the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the Canadian government is promoting further expansion of these operations without human rights guarantees.
An urgent message from Colombia
More than 40 years of armed conflict in Colombia have been fueled by ruthless efforts to steal or take control of land and resources. As many as 5 million people have been forced to flee for their lives, amidst death threats and atrocities.
Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Thousands more have been subjected to enforced disappearance or abduction. The conflict has also been marked by forced recruitment of child soldiers and widespread sexual violence against girls and women.
The Colombian government recently signed a peace accord with FARC rebels and initiated peace talks with ELN rebels, yet violence and human rights abuses continue in Colombia, particularly in areas of economic interest that are often in or near the territory of Indigenous Peoples. The rights and survival of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia, many of which are literally threatened with being wiped out, is central to a lasting peace.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear:Luis Fernando Arias, Chief Counsel of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and a Kankuamo Indigenous leader, during the Toronto stop of a Canadian visit co-sponsored by Amnesty International.
The event will also feature:Terrylynn Brant, Turtle clan of the Mohawk Nation of Grand River, Six Nations and traditional Mohawk Seedkeeper. Music by Ruben Esguerra - multi-instrumentalist, lyricist and arts educator born in Colombia.
Food and refreshments will be provided.
When: Tuesday March 7th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm