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Colombia: Action urgently needed to protect Indigenous Peoples struggling for survival

    Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 00:00

    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.

    Take Action

    Send a short, polite letter to Colombia’s President, with a copy to Canada's Minister for Latin America. This is very important since Canada must press for effective protection of Indigenous Peoples and their rights in Colombia, given our special relationship via the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

    Begin your letter with a sentence describing who you are and where you live.  Then make any of the following points in your own words:

    • Express concern about the increased toll in killings, threats and forced displacement that put the survival of dozens of Indigenous Peoples at risk.
    • Ask for immediate and decisive action to guarantee the rights contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right of Indigenous Peoples not to be removed from their traditional lands and to give their free, prior and informed consent to any economic development on their lands.
    • Urge that all public officials, including members of the security forces stop making public statements which stigmatize Indigenous Peoples and their leaders by accusing them of belonging to or siding with guerrilla groups.
    • Insist that all human rights abuses against Indigenous Peoples are properly investigated, bringing those responsible to justice so as to prevent further abuses.

    Write To

    Presidente de la República de Colombia
    Señor Presidente Juan Manuel Santos
    Palacio de Nariño
    Carrera 8, No. 7 - 26
    Bogota, COLOMBIA
    Fax: 011 57 1 337 5890
    Dear President Santos

    Copies To

    Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)
    Hon. Diane Ablonczy
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON.
    K1A 0A6
    Fax: 613-992-2537

    More Background

    According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), during the last ten years, more than 1,800 Indigenous people were killed or forcibly disappeared and thousands of others were threatened with death, prompting entire communities to flee their land in terror.

    Human rights abuses like this are frequently committed as a means to gain control over territory with economic potential.

    Since 2002, more than 84,000 Indigenous inhabitants have been forced to leave their resource-rich territory. Forced displacement has particularly tragic consequences for Indigenous people. Their close relationship to the land is not only the foundation of their cultures and way of life, it is also essential to fulfilling many of their rights, including rights to subsistence, livelihood and health.

    The government of Stephen Harper signed a free trade agreement with Colombia, amidst concerns about grave human rights abuses in areas of economic interest often inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. The deal came into effect in August 2011.