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Nº 5/99


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has received reports of the murder of Ingrid Washinawatok (41), a member of the indigenous community of the Menominee Nation who was known for her work on behalf of humanitarian causes; Lahe'ena'e Gay (39), Director of Pacific Cultural Conservancy International in Hawaii; and Terence Freitas (24), environmentalist, all of them citizens of the United States of America. The victims were kidnapped on 25 February last as they were travelling from Saravena (Arauca) to the town of Cubará (Boyacá), where the headquarters of the Association of Town Councils and Traditional Authorities of the U'wa indigenous community of Colombia is located. The bodies were found in the locality of La Victoria, Venezuela, by the judicial police of that country, with multiple gunshot wounds and signs of having been bound and blindfolded.

The three victims were supporters of protection for the environment in the ancestral territory of the U'wa people, with whose leaders the Commission had also met during its in loco visit of December 1997, and were in Colombia to engage in cultural exchange activities.

Given these facts, the Commission wishes to express its most vigorous condemnation of the criminal abduction and subsequent murder of these three defenders of the rights of indigenous peoples. The norms of international law protect the right to personal integrity of civilians and prohibit extrajudicial execution for any reason whatsoever both in times of peace and in times of armed conflict.

The Commission calls upon Colombian State to take firm steps to investigate, identify and punish those responsible for these atrocious crimes.


Washington, D.C., 8 March 1999