IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns violence against indigenous peoples, black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero communities, and peasant communities in Colombia, and especially against their leaders. The IACHR calls on the State to investigate with due diligence and to take preventive action in agreement with ethnoracial groups and peasant communities, as well as to ensure effective practical implementation of all commitments made in the country's Peace Agreement.
On March 28, Colombia's National Army conducted a raid in the Puerto Leguizamo municipality, in the Putumayo department, which left 11 people dead and at least four injured, including a soldier. The Defense Ministry said the dead were all members of illegal armed groups. The State stressed that this was a legitimate operation in a region with abundant criminal activity and territorial disputes among organized crime drug trafficking gangs and paramilitary groups.
Civil society organizations and indigenous peoples told the Commission that the bodies that had been identified were all of members of the area's indigenous and peasant communities. They included Pablo Panduro Cochinche, indigenous governor of the Kichwa Council in Bajo Remanso, Ana María Sarría, and Didier Hernandes, chair of the Communal Action Board. These organizations further said that several members of these communities remained missing, while the State said it was still validating these reports. The Commission was also informed about an alleged denial of medical assistance to the affected individuals.
The IACHR notes that Colombia's Public Prosecutor's Office has launched a preliminary ex officio inquiry into the Puerto Leguizamo raid. The Commission further notes that the country's Attorney General has appointed two public prosecutors from its expert national unit to investigate human rights violations to work on this case, with the support of a forensic science team and the special investigations unit.
Social organizations continue to complain that no State institutions are capable of safeguarding the rights of residents of the territories where these events took place.
On March 15, Miller Correa, a leader of the Nasa people and a human rights defender, was reportedly murdered in the El Tambo municipality, in the Cauca department. The Commission notes that Correa, as a member of the Tacueyo reservation, was a beneficiary of precautionary measure 255/11. This precautionary measure was granted by the Inter-American Commission in favor of Nasa individuals who lived in the Toribio, San Francisco, Tacueyo, and Jambalo reservations given the impact of violence on the Nasa people and the lack of effective practical safeguards of the rights of life and physical integrity of these individuals.
The State said that, at the time of his death, Correa was a beneficiary of security measures granted by the national protection unit and noted that an individual had been arrested after being found in possession of Correa's car.
The Commission urges the State to continue to diligently investigate this case—including as one of its hypotheses Correa's work in defense of human rights and of Nasa territory—and to punish the perpetrators and masterminds of this murder.
The IACHR further stresses that, in compliance with the applicable standards, it is the ordinary justice system who must investigate allegations of human rights violations. The Commission stresses the State's obligation to provide clear data, particularly concerning the number of dead, injured, arrests, and people gone missing during this military raid. The Commission calls on the relevant authorities to continue to investigate with protocols that prevent victim stigmatization and to take all necessary measures to ensure redress for any harm done, with an intercultural focus that takes into consideration the impact on victims, their families, and their communities.
The IACHR urges Colombia to increase its comprehensive territorial presence and to engage in talks with organizations representing ethnoracial groups and tribal and peasant communities in the country, in order to come to an agreement with them on the action that needs to be taken to protect the rights to life and physical integrity of Colombia's ethnic and peasant communities. Finally, the IACHR stresses the need for the State to step up its efforts to implement the Peace Agreement—its Ethnic Chapter in particular—and to take urgent measures to protect the rights of ethnic peoples.
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 and to defend 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.