Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace recognises Wiwa people and their ancestral territory as victims of international crimes

Press release
en es

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), as legal representative of the Wiwa people before the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP), celebrates the court’s decision to recognise this Indigenous group and its ancestral territory as victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. FIDH hopes that the JEP makes advances in identifying those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed and that sanctions imposed are consistent with the cosmovision of the Indigenous peoples and their own government and laws.

Bogotá, 11 July 2024. The Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP) accredited the Wiwa Indigenous people, who live in northern Colombia, as victims of crimes that are ineligible for amnesty. Its recognition as a victim occurred in the framework of macro-case 09, in which the court seeks to prosecute and sanction those bearing the greatest responsibility for criminal acts committed against Indigenous peoples and territories because of, during, or in direct or indirect relation to the Colombian armed conflict.

The Wiwa Organisation Yugumaiun Bunkuanarrua Tayrona (OWYBT), whose legal representative is the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was recognised by the JEP as a special intervenor in macro-case 09 to act on behalf of the Wiwa people, which is comprised of approximately 20,000 people.

In the decision, the JEP also recognized the Arhuaco, Kankuamo and Kogui peoples as victims. They and the Wiwa live on ancestral, sacred, and collective territory in the Sierra Nevada de Gonawindua (Santa Marta).

Moreover, the JEP granted victim status to the ancestral territory itself, considering that the war resulted in the destruction of ecosystems; the loss of traditional livelihoods; harm to sacred sites and knowledge systems; and loss of flora and fauna. This has had an impact on the subsistence livelihood economy of the four Indigenous peoples, their dietary habits, food autonomy, and traditional medicine.

Upon recognising the ancestral territory as a victim, the JEP ordered the Ministry of National Defence and the National Army to "provide information on the status of the consultative process aimed at considering the possible removal of the military base; power lines, stations and substations; and communication antennas and towers located in Cerro Inarwa (also known as Cerro Alguacil)". [1]

Macro-case 09 presents an opportunity for the JEP to identify and sanction the distinct and disproportionate impacts that the internal armed conflict has had on Colombia’s Indigenous peoples and, in this case, on the Wiwa people. The crimes committed against the peoples and their members, authorities, and ancestral territories have brought many of them to the brink of physical and cultural annihilation.

According to the regulations governing the JEP, the participation of the Wiwa people and other peoples must take place within the framework of an intercultural dialogue and inter-jurisdictional coordination between the Indigenous authorities and the court. FIDH, as the legal representative of the Wiwa people, expects the JEP to guarantee their adequate participation and that of their traditional authorities in this dialogue. It is also necessary that all phases of the judicial process —including the restorative approach that guides JEP proceedings— be in accordance with the Wiwa people’s worldview and their own governance and laws.

Read more