Press Release

IACHR Condemns Deaths and Expresses Concern over the Situation of Violence in the North of Cauca, Colombia

July 25, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the effects of the clashes between an illegal armed group and the security forces of Colombia in the Department of Cauca, which allegedly caused injuries to civilians, including children. The Inter-American Commission welcomes the information on the launching of a dialogue between the government of Colombia and the indigenous peoples of the Cauca, and encourages the parties to seek through dialogue a pacific solution to this conflict.

The situation of indigenous peoples in the north of Cauca has deteriorated recently as a result of increased fighting in urban and rural areas of several municipalities of this Department. According to information of public knowledge, in this context died Eduar Fabián Guetio Bastos, a Nasa indigenous youth, as a result of a lethal injury that was allegedly produced by military officials on July 18, on a road of the reserve of la Laguna Siberia, Municipality of Caldono. In addition, information was received on the death of Mauricio Largo, allegedly from a bullet shot during a confrontation that took place on July 19 in the neighborhood of Huasana, Municipality of Caloto, Cauca.

In addition, the Commission is particularly concerned over the situation of members of the Nasa People of the Jambaló, Toribio, San Francisco and Tacueyó Reserves in the Department of Cauca, who are beneficiaries of Precautionary Measure 255/11, issued by the Commission on November 14, 2011. Through that measure, the Commission requested the State to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of the beneficiaries. In the request of precautionary measures, it was alleged that members of the Nasa People of these indigenous reserves are in high risk due to the armed conflict, and that there have been killings, enforced disappearances and other serious acts of violence.   In March 2012, the Commission had already condemned the death of members of the Nasa people, as well as the violation of the physical integrity of three children who were injured by explosive devices found in the school in Jambalo. In that opportunity, the Commission expressed “particular concern on the information received regarding armed clashes that reportedly took place on March 23, 2012, between the National Police, the National Army, and members of illegal armed groups in rural and urban areas of the Jambalo Reserve, events that reportedly left at least two persons injured.” The IACHR press release dated March 30, 2012, urged “the Colombian State to prevent armed actions that could jeopardize the life or integrity of the civilian population.”

Recently, the Commission received information indicating that, from July 3, 2012, there were clashes between an illegal armed group and the Colombian security forces in the urban area of ​​Jambaló, causing injuries to four civilians, including three children. Also, the Commission received information on the explosion of a bomb in Toribio, which would have caused injuries to five health professionals and an indigenous person.   The Commission also was informed that, given the serious consequences of the clashes between government forces and an illegal armed group, the indigenous authorities of the north of Cauca have asked both parties of the conflict to cease armed hostilities and the withdrawal of its territory. Available information indicates that between July 17 and 18, 2012, members of the Nasa people allegedly proceeded to evict the military and that, afterwards, the military allegedly took back their position in the area. According to information from the indigenous authorities, these violent acts have resulted in dozens of indigenous persons injured, one person arrested and ten missing.   The Inter-American Commission condemns these acts of violence affecting civilian population, including beneficiaries of precautionary measures. The Commission urges the government to immediately adopt all necessary measures to ensure the right to life, integrity and personal security of civilians.

The IACHR encourage the State of Colombia to seek, through the dialogue established with the indigenous peoples of the region, the establishment of effective mechanisms to guarantee the respect to human rights of the inhabitantes of Cauca.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 94/12