Colombia’s indigenous communities at risk: report

Armed conflict and forced displacement persist as threats for Colombia's indigenous peoples, according to a new report by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). Threats, attacks, killings, forced recruitment, sexual violence and torture remain common in indigenous territories, the group said. One of the most disturbing figures in the report is that between May and June this year 2,819 members of the Dobida Embera community in the western department of Chocó were displaced due to clashes between the ELN guerillas and Urabeños paramilitary force. The UN had previously said that at least 300 locals were forced to flee due to the violence. The report charges: "Despite the orders given by the Constitutional Court of Colombia regarding the protection of at least 64 indigenous people they continue to be at high risk for physical and cultural extermination. This is due to the armed conflict and forced displacement. The nature of the violations reaffirms the ineffective protective measures of the national and international bodies involved."

Between January and September ten indigenous persons died "as a result of selective murder by the actions of armed forces." Among the victims were three members of the Nasa people, two of the Awá, two from the Embera-Chami, and two of the Embera-Dobida and Embera-Eyabida peoples. Perpetrators were named as the Aguilas Negras paramilitary and FARC guerillas, as well as the Urabeños and ELN.

The report also found that 36 indigenous leaders have been threatened, and "despite the urgent actions that have been issued to the units responsible for the protection of our leaders today, nothing has been done to secure their lives."

ONIC reiterated the indigenous demand for the right to neutrality in Colombia's armed conflict: "We require all armed actors in the conflict to not involve indigenous communities in the war. We also demand full respect for the rules of international humanitarian law to protect us as autonomous governments and unarmed civilians. Therefore, we demand that the ELN not bind our communities in war and conflict nor intimidate us with threats. For the indigenous people of Colombia peace is not just a word it is a practice that every day we live and practice in the territories, in our cycles of life and all those we interact with."

The ONIC report was published just days after the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples opened in New York, where the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) presented its report "Indigenous Peoples in Latin America." The conference was held for states to form an agreement on implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (PDF). (ICTMN, Sept. 27; Colombia Reports, Sept. 26)

Despite the peace talks with the FARC underway in Cuba, war continues in Colombia's countryside. Defense Mnister Juan Carlos Pinzón on Sept. 26 announced the death in combat of Aníbal Guarín Herrera AKA "Tomate"—commander of the FARC's  Alirio Torres Column. The gun-fight took place in Buga, Valle del Cauca. "Tomate" was also named as personal security chief for Pablo Catatumbo, a top-level FARC commander and one of the negotiators at the Havana talks. (El Tiempo, EFE, Sept. 26)