Colombia: Indigenous human rights activists are in mortal danger
Peace treaty fails to bring peace (Press release)
According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), indigenous human rights activists in Colombia are in great danger. Thus, the Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia (ONIC) reported that 36 indigenous human rights activists were indicted since the inauguration of President Iván Duque in August. "Despite the peace treaty with the FARC guerrilla, everyday life of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian people in rural areas is still characterized by terror and fear – and the state is unable or unwilling to fulfill its obligation to protect the population," criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP's expert on indigenous peoples, in Göttingen on Friday. "The indigenous population is caught between the fronts of armed groups who are fighting over territories that were once controlled by the guerilla – including the drug smuggling paths and the coca plantations, which is why there is a lot of money involved."
The most recent murder occurred in the reserve Huellas in the first week of December. The 28-year-old chief of Caloto (Cauca district), Edwin Dagua, was killed by members of the far-right "Black Eagles". Before, Dagua had received several death threats. The government had promised to protect him but failed to live up to its promise.
Previously, on December 2, three Awa were murdered in the southern part of the neighboring province of Nariño. Héctor Ramiro García Guanga and his son Arturo García lost their lives when unidentified attackers opened fire on a council meeting of elders of the village. Four elders were wounded. On the same day, a 16-year-old Awa girl was murdered in the Tumaco settlement.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, the situation for environmental activists and human rights advocates in Colombia is dramatic. He published a report in early December, stating that up to 335 human rights activists were murdered since 2016. About 500 people are at acute risk. Anyone who dares to advocate for human rights, the protection of indigenous territories or minorities – especially in rural Colombia – is risking his/her life. According to the ONIC, there has been a significant increase in murders of indigenous people in the provinces of Cauca, Cordoba, Caldas, and Antioquia. Only about fifty percent of the murderers are expected to be punished.
Header image: Camilo Rueda Lopez via Flickr