IACHR CONDEMNS MURDERS OF INDIGENOUS LEADERS IN COLOMBIA
Washington, D.C., September 1, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of three indigenous leaders in Colombia, and the wife of one of them, over the last two weeks.
According to the information available, three leaders of the U’wa, Sikuani, and Pasto peoples, and the wife of one of the leaders, were killed by hired assassins between August 13 and 26 of this year. On August 13, Carmen Elisa Mora Uncacia was killed. A member of the U’wa people, she worked as coordinator of the Office of Indigenous Affairs in the Mayor’s Office in the town of Saravena, in the department of Arauca. The indigenous leader, who was attacked in her home, was the mother of two children and was pregnant at the time of her death. On August 14, Jaime Reyes, of the Sikuani people, was killed. He lived on the Parreros reserve and was a member of the town council of La Esperanza. The indigenous leader, who was in a situation of forced displacement, was attacked by hit men in the community of Barcelona, in the municipality of Tame, in Arauca. On August 26, Ramiro Inampues and his wife, of the Pasto people, were kidnapped; their bodies appeared two days later, with bullet wounds, in the community of El Corso, in the Guachucal indigenous reserve, in the department of Nariño. The indigenous leader, who was known as Taita Ramiro, had been governor of the Guachucal reserve and was a council member in the municipality of Guachucal.
The IACHR condemns these violations to the individual rights of the victims and their families. The Inter-American Commission also emphasizes that attacks on indigenous leaders and authorities break down the cohesion of indigenous peoples. These murders affect not only the direct victims of violence and their families, but also indigenous societies as a whole, given the critical duties of leaders and authorities and their central role in defending, preserving, and passing down their ancestral cultures. Since attacks on indigenous leaders and authorities constitute assaults on the entire sociocultural structure, they are grave crimes that violate the integrity and collective rights of indigenous peoples as groups that have special protections under international human rights law and, in the context of internal armed conflicts such as the one in Colombia, under international humanitarian law as well.
The Commission urges the Colombian State to investigate these crimes, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and masterminds, and address the needs for protection and security of indigenous leaders and authorities in Colombia, in order to prevent these violations of individual and collective human rights.
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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
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