History of a hidden human rights emergency
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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.
A dire and urgent situation
It has been called a forgotten conflict, but it has created a dire and urgent situation for Indigenous Peoples in Colombia, especially those living in areas eyed for their resources and economic potential.
There are 102 distinct Indigenous nations in Colombia, enriching the South American country with diverse cultures, languages, social structures and ways of life. At least one third of them are threatened with “extermination”, according to Colombia’s highest court, and face an “emergency … as serious as it is invisible”.
In January 2009, the Court gave the government six months to devise and implement a plan to guarantee the rights of endangered Indigenous Peoples. More than three years later, there is little evidence of effective progress.
In 2010, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) launched a courageous campaign to draw attention to the plight of these, and other Indigenous nations that are at risk because of ongoing armed conflict, lack of state support and the imposition of resource extraction projects.
The United Nations Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous peoples James Anaya believes the situation is so worrying that he has recommended a visit to Colombia by the UN’s Special Adviser on prevention of genocide.
Amnesty International research missions to Colombia have also documented the crisis confronting Indigenous Peoples. Our concerns are laid out in repeated submissions to the UN and in a special report "The Struggle for Survival and Dignity: Human Rights Abuses against Indigenous Peoples in Colombia".
Amnesty International’s human rights agenda for the Colombian government:
- guarantee the rights contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular 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.
- comply with the January 2009 Constitutional Court ruling on Indigenous Peoples and displacement, which calls on the government to devise and implement a plan to guarantee the rights of displaced and endangered Indigenous Peoples.
- ensure that measures are adopted to improve the protection of Indigenous Peoples displaced as a result of the conflict, in line with UN human rights recommendations, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
- ensure that all public officials, including members of the security forces, stop making public statements which seek to stigmatize Indigenous Peoples and their leaders by accusing them of belonging to or siding with guerrilla groups.
- adopt effective measures to prevent human rights abuses against Indigenous Peoples and identify, investigate and bring to justice those responsible for abuses.