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Urgent situation facing indigenous protestors in Colombia

We write to express our deepest concern with the way that Colombian authorities are
managing the social protests taking place throughout the country. In particular, we ask
that you urge Colombia to exercise restraint when utilizing the ESMAD (anti-riot police)
against protestors, investigate and sanction those responsible for abuses committed
and to seek constructive dialogue with the protestors leaders. Beyond dialogue,
Colombia should be encouraged to seek solutions to the issues and problems raised by
the protestors.
We are particularly disturbed by the following reports:
The National Indigenous Organization (ONIC) affirms that since May 30 indigenous
communities are protesting throughout Colombia. They are asking the Colombian
government to uphold the over 1,200 agreements made with their communities that
have not been implemented. ONIC notes that of all the public policies designated for
indigenous peoples the State has only complied with 2.94% of them. Further, that
despite countless meetings (over 1,000 hours of dialogue) the Colombian authorities
have not complied with their commitments.
They assert that the following abuses were committed during the protests:
1)
An Embera Chami indigenous 26 year of father of four was killed by the ESMAD in
Valle del Cauca.
2)
Sixty-five persons including children, women and elders of the Zenu, Embera
Chami, Nasa, Yanaconas, Misak and Emberas have suffered injuries. One person was
mutilated and lost a finger.
3)

An Embera child was run over by an ESMAD vehicle.

4)
Two Embera Chami have faced judicial charges in Caldas including one woman
who was physically attacked by the public forces.
5)

An Embera is reportedly disappeared and whereabouts unknown.

6)
The public forces are flying above the areas where the indigenous are located and
dropping pamphlets that invite the indigenous to demobilize. The latter falsely labels
and stigmatizes these communities as insurgents and makes them at risk of harm by
illegal armed groups.

7)
In the areas where the protests are taking place the ESMAD is utilizing
indiscriminate force against civilians. They are throwing tear gas that has resulted in
health problems for a pregnant woman and two kids.
We urge you to take action regarding the situation that is unfolding and the cases
mentioned above. Further, we reiterate our concern that indigenous and afro Colombian
communities have not been invited to dialogue with the parties negotiating peace in
Cuba. Given the special vulnerabilities faced by indigenous communities, sheer number
of abuses committed against them in the conflict and their collective land rights it is
imperative that they converse with the negotiating table to guarantee effective and
durable peace in areas where they reside or are displaced to.
We also recall that the US and Colombia have a special obligation to protect the lives of
indigenous leaders.
Thank you,
Gimena Sanchez
WOLA
Senior Associate
WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
Cell: +1 (202) 489-1702
Tel: +1 (202) 797-2171
Email: gsanchez@wola.org
Twitter: @WOLA Colombia
www.wola.org