No More Murders of Indigenous People in Colombia!

Press release
en es

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
repudiates the violent repression of the protest carried out by the indigenous communities in
several departments of Colombia, which as of October 16 had resulted in one indigenous person dead, more than 100 wounded –many gravely–, and 8 families being evicted [1]
. 19
police officers had also been wounded.

Since October 11, approximately 10,000 indigenous persons have been mobilized throughout
the country to celebrate the "Minga for Social and Community Resistance" in order to
remember the anniversary of the landing of the Spanish on the American continent and to
request the respect for their fundamental rights, beginning with their right to life [2]
and the
reestablishment of their territorial rights, in accordance with the commitments of the Colombian government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Indigenous Communities concentrated in La María, an indigenous reservation declared a
territory of peace and co-existence by the Colombian government in 1999 (municipality of
Piendamó, located in the center of the department of Cauca), as well as along the Pan-American Highway. Since October 13, a contingent of at least 1000 armed men (including
personnel from the national police, the anti-riot police –ESMAD–, and the national army) have
been present in Cauca, supported by armored cars and helicopters. On October 14, General
Páez Varón issued an ultimatum to protestors to disperse from the highway, warning that
otherwise they would be forcibly cleared. He also asserted the movement was infiltrated by
the FARC, which later was refuted by indigenous leaders. In the early morning of October 15,
the protestors were assaulted with rifles, tear gas, and hand grenades, which caused the
death of one person and wounded dozens more. On previous days, several persons had also
been wounded and four arbitrarily detained.

FIDH repudiates this disproportionate use of force and expresses its profound concern
for the reports of armed civilians protected by the police shooting at the protestors from the
mountainside, as well as for the acts of barbarity committed by members of ESMAD, which
resulted gravely wounding an indigenous person with a machete. They had also left this
person on the ground for several hours and impeded the arrival of ambulances to assist him.
FIDH also denounces the attack perpetrated by the armed forces against the health
center and the destruction of first aid kits being used by indigenous persons to assist the
wounded, as well as for having impeded the arrival of an ambulance and obstructing the work
of medical staff and human rights defenders. The destruction of several houses belonging to
indigenous persons is also repudiated.

FIDH recalls that these grave events occur within a general context of grave, systematic
and repeated violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia. In the last month, 29
indigenous persons were murdered [4], and over the last six years more than 1,240 indigenous
persons have been murdered in Colombia [5]
and at least 53,885 displaced [6]
. Within this
context, we are also deeply concerned by the statements made by senior government
authorities, including the President of Colombia, according to whom terrorists have infiltrated
the protestors [7]
. In this respect, it has also been reported two members of military intelligence
were found with camouflage uniforms, two-way radios, and a weapons and explosive manual.
They were retained inside of the La Maria reservation and turned over to the commission
made up of the United Nations and State control agencies. These accusations and manipulations open the possibility for even more ferocious repression.

In this respect, FIDH recalls that on days prior to the march the Embera Chami
indigenous persons Luz Marina Morales, Mauricio Largo Bañol and Cesar Largo Alarcon
were massacred –and the 70-year-old Maria Angelica Alcarcon was wounded- by the
paramilitary structure called « Black Eagles ». The same situation has occurred in the
Department of Cauca where in the past days 11 Paez indigenous persons have been
murdered, including Nicolás Valencia Lemus, Celestino Rivera, César Hurtado Tróchez, and
former senior advisor of CRIC Raul Mendoza, on September 28, 2008. One month before the
mobilization, the Paez had received death threats from the same paramilitary group, as well
as the announcement of an extermination during the march, incidents which coincided with
the resignation of Juan José Cháux Mosquera, former governor of Cauca and ambassador in
the Dominican Republic, due to his alleged ties with paramilitarism in Colombia [8]

FIDH urges President Uribe to agree to the request for dialogue formulated since
October 9 by the indigenous communities that demand the guarantee of their fundamental
rights, beginning with the right to life, respect for their territory, and the immediate cessation
of armed operations against the social mobilizations carried out by indigenous communities
and peasants. FIDH also requests for these incidents to be the object of a prompt and
impartial investigation and to punish the authors of these crimes. Likewise, it calls upon the
Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo) and the Inspector General’s
Office (Procuraduria General de la Nación) to be present in the affected area.

FIDH calls upon the international community to urgently send and international mission to
investigate these graves events. This is essential since the mass media has not been able to
reach said areas.

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