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Emergency situation for Indigenous Peoples in Colombia must be addressed by first annual review of controversial trade agreement

    May 11, 2012

    With the anticipated release of the Canadian government’s human rights impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Amnesty International Canada urges that the human rights emergency affecting Indigenous Peoples in the South American country is given the priority attention it deserves.

    “As Amnesty International testified to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012, there have been few tangible improvements in the overall human rights situation in Colombia despite commitments made by the Colombian government,” said Kathy Price, Amnesty Canada’s Campaigner on Colombia.  “The crisis facing Indigenous Peoples, many of whom live in areas of economic interest, requires special attention.”

    Indigenous communities in Colombia continue to report violations of their right to free, prior and informed consent regarding projects that will affect them, as well as threats and attacks against those who raise their voices in opposition to such projects. The terror generated can prompt mass forced displacement, which further threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples. Between 2002 and 2009 alone, at least 70,000 Indigenous inhabitants were forced to flee their territories, according to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, and the number keeps climbing.
    Colombia’s Constitutional Court has determined at least 34 distinct Indigenous nations are in danger of utter eradication in what the Court calls “an emergency which is as serious as it is invisible”.

    Amnesty International Canada remains concerned that engaging in resource development in a context in which people are violently driven from their lands inevitably carries a high risk of fueling and contributing to these grave human rights violations, even if unintentionally. 

    “On repeated occasions, Amnesty Canada requested information about the methodology being used by the government to compile their report on the human rights impacts of the trade agreement,” said Price. “We have sought information about opportunities by which human rights organizations and affected sectors of the population in Colombia could provide input. Disappointingly, government officials failed to share either with us.”

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332