30.       During 2006, the IACHR continued to receive information about the violence affecting vulnerable groups in various regions of the country, in particular indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant community councils and communities, the members of which are targeted by both individual and collective violence, endangering their autonomy and their territorial and cultural rights.


31.       In Colombia there are 90 indigenous peoples, distributed among the country’s 32 departments, with 64 languages and their own world views, histories, and spirituality. The cultural richness of these peoples is reflected in their various ways of life, which are generally tied in with the land, in their forms of social organization, and in their different methods of conflict resolution, which has enabled them to maintain their cultural identity.[47] This cultural richness is constantly threatened by the ongoing violence in many of the areas where these peoples live.


32.       The indigenous territories are used by the various armed factions in Colombia as zones for their military and economic operations, as transit routes and refuge areas for their troops, for the trafficking of weapons, and for the cultivation, processing, and trafficking of drugs. The Commission notes that over recent years, the pressure brought to bear by the illegal armed groups on these indigenous territories has increased, on account of heightened economic interest in the riches of the indigenous territories with a view to the exploitation of natural resources and the construction of major road, mining, and hydroelectric projects.


33.       According to figures from the Observatory of the Presidential Human Rights and IHL Program, 41 indigenous people were killed between January and September 2006. During the same period in 2005, 40 killings were recorded.[48] Additionally, figures complied by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) indicate that between January and June 2006, a total of 143,263 crimes and IHL violations were committed against indigenous peoples.[49]


34.       The complaints received indicate that the northern Cauca and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta areas are among the most severely affected. Specifically, the IACHR has been informed of acts of intimidation and violence by the outlawed armed group known as the Águilas Negras (“Black Eagles”) in Valledupar and its surrounding areas, which are inhabited by Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa, and Kankuamo indigenous peoples.[50] On March 5, 2006, a chief of the Makaguaje indigenous people was killed for failing to obey an order to halt in Arauca department and, the next day, his wife, a schoolteacher at Caño Claro, was killed by the FARC when she went to collect the body. During 2006, two teachers of the Wounaan indigenous people were also killed in Chocó department. The State itself has recognized the emblematic nature of those killings, in that they reflect the deliberate aim of destroying the identity of the people involved and attacking their cultural projects by murdering their leaders, chiefs, and teachers.[51] Then, on August 9, 2006, (the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples), five indigenous community members, including one former chief and a teacher, were killed in a massacre among the Awa of Nariño department.[52]


35.       Of particular concern is the effect that forced displacements from their ancestral territories have on Colombia’s indigenous peoples. According to figures complied by CODHES, indigenous peoples were severely and disproportionately affected by this phenomenon during the first half of 2006; those most particularly affected included the Nukak Maku, the Wounaan, the Wayuu, the Paeces, the Koguis and Wiwas, and the Awa.[53] CODHES has reported that some 5,773 members of various indigenous peoples were displaced, both individually and collectively. It also states that 16% of the affected individuals belong to indigenous peoples that were displaced by combat operations and armed actions by the security forces, guerrillas, and paramilitary groups.[54] Government sources in turn indicate that one community belonging to the Makaguan people was displaced following the murder of two of its leaders.[55]


36.       In addition, in April 2006, 50 Wayuu families (260 people) living in the village of Poropo in Bahía Honda district, municipality of Uribia, abandoned their homes after AUC paramilitaries belonging to the Norte de la Guajira Bloc and that had not yet demobilized attacked several women, including one of 80 years of age, and killed a member of her family. These families initially arrived at the Uribia municipal seat, where the authorities gave them humanitarian assistance in exchange for an undertaking to return immediately, a condition that, according to Acción Social, 47 people met. However, in the field CODHES found that more than 150 people did not return and remained in Uribia; another 56 settled in Maracaibo, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia; and some families relocated to the city of Santa Marta in Magdalena department.[56]


37.       Forced displacements caused by the armed conflict have also affected the indigenous peoples found in the borderlands. According to CODHES, in the first half of 2006, 48 members of the Wounaan ethnic group[57] and 15 people from the Embera ethnic group took refuge in Panama, while 56 members of the Wayuu indigenous people took refuge in Venezuela.[58]


38.       The office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted its concern about the situation faced by the men, women, and children who make up Colombia’s indigenous peoples as regards violations of their fundamental human rights, given the absence of any indication of reductions in the level of violence and given the fact that displacements lead to a breakdown of the social fabric and the undermining of their indigenous traditions.[59]


39.       ONIC has denounced the gravity of this situation, which affects the lifestyles, autonomy, and security of all Colombia’s indigenous peoples.[60] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also called attention to the humanitarian emergency affecting the communities and threatening them with extinction.[61] In connection with this, the Commission notes with particular concern the situation of the Nukak Maku and Makaguaje indigenous peoples who, on account of their low numbers and the consequences of the armed conflict, are threatened with extinction. According to information received by the IACHR, 77 members of the Nukak Maku indigenous people[62] were displaced to San José del Guaviare in March 2006. Thus, in April 2006, the displaced persons totaled 150.[63] Following these incidents, the Colombian State placed 170 members of this people in 20,000 hectares of jungle.[64] The Commission, in recent months, has learned of the death of their leader Mow’be[65] and that the Nuka Maku’s new territory lacks what they need for subsistence and for the protection of their health.[66]


40.       The Commission again expresses to the Colombian State its concern about the vulnerable situation in which the indigenous peoples of Colombia live, which can be seen in the killings, forced disappearances, massacres, and forced displacements suffered by their members. The constant acts of violence carried out against indigenous peoples who demand respect for and protection of their basic rights threaten not only the life and personal integrity of their members, but also their existence as peoples; additionally, constant attacks on their leaders seek to break the cohesion of those indigenous peoples around the defense of their rights, in particular the right to life, to autonomy, and to territory.  In its response, the State made reference to the humanitarian assistance afforded and other measures adopted in favor of the indigenous peoples of kogui-wiwa, wayúu, paez, awa, wounnan y nukak maku.[67]


41.       With regard to Colombia’s Afro-descendants, their communities and community councils have limited access to educational services, to employment opportunities, to income, and to participation in local- and national-level decision-making. For example, in Chocó department, the population of African descent – which accounts for 85% of the total – lives in extreme poverty;[68] the department also has the country’s lowest level of drinking water coverage, 81% of households have no drainage, the illiteracy rate stands at 19%, and there are high levels of childbirth-related deaths.[69] The Government has estimated that 72% of the Afro-Colombian population occupy the country’s two lowest socioeconomic strata.[70] All those factors have served to prevent this segment of the population from enjoying their particular world view, traditions, and culture, and they have also made them largely invisible within the country’s public policies.


42.       Against this backdrop, during 2006 the IACHR continued to receive reports about acts of violence and intimidation intended to lead to the forced displacement of these individuals, who account for 26.83% of Colombia’s total population[71] and 30% of its displaced population,[72] according to figures from CODHES.  The IACHR, through its Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, is planning to conduct and in loco visit in Colombia during 2007 in order to observe the situation of the afrocolombian population.


43.       The IACHR underscores the need for the Colombian Government to effectively implement policies and initiatives such as those created in 2002 by the National Economic and Social Policy Council (CONPES),[73] together with the National Plan for the Comprehensive Attention of the Displaced Population which, during 2005, set the goal of “identifying community, institutional, and legal mechanisms for protecting collective rights of the ethnic territories of indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities.”[74] The IACHR also notes the need to strengthen the development of statistics to reflect the current human rights situation of Afro-descendants, as well as their prevailing socioeconomic circumstances.




44.       A pattern of threats, harassment, and killings continued to hinder the endeavors of Colombia’s human rights defenders during 2006. Individuals who work to promote and protect human rights in Colombia remain at considerable risk of having their rights violated because of their professional activities. The IACHR has received complaints about the electronic distribution of threats against a number of human rights organizations operating in various regions of the country. Reports also continued to come in about judicial “setups” orchestrated against human rights defenders, some of whom have lodged complaints with the inter-American system.


45.       The State has conveyed to the IACHR a communiqué from the Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, expressing his repudiation of the threats received by certain human rights organizations and by some of their members and expresses his commitment toward and support of those social organizations working in the human rights area, recognizing their contributions to the country’s democratic development.[75] The Commission trusts that the State will adopt, as a matter of urgency, effective measures to protect the lives and persons of human rights defenders and to eliminate the factors that endanger their work.


46.       The IACHR again states the need for an intensification of efforts to clear up the numerous cases of serious human rights violations currently before the Colombian courts, in particular those carried out by armed agents against indigenous communities, Afro-descendants, women, children, human rights defenders, and social leaders.




47.       The IACHR has on repeated occasions emphasized the need to use effective negotiation mechanisms in order to bring an end to the violence that, for four decades, has been affecting the inhabitants of the Republic of Colombia. The Commission has also stated that the durability of peace is tied in with the nonrepetition of crimes against international law, of human rights violations, and of serious breaches of international humanitarian law, and, consequently, with casting light on and making amends for the consequences of violence through appropriate mechanisms for establishing the facts of the matter, administering justice, and providing the victims of the conflict with redress.


48.       The year 2006 marks the conclusion of the AUC demobilization process and Colombia is facing the challenge of displaying concrete results with dismantling its paramilitary armed units and implementing the legal framework adopted for prosecuting the crimes committed by the AUC.


49.       In light of those challenges, the Commission remains concerned regarding the impact of violence on the civilian population and, in particular, on its most vulnerable groups, such as indigenous communities, Afro-descendants, and displaced persons, and about the growing number of accusations alleging participation by agents of the State itself. In addition, the IACHR also remains concerned about the reported attacks on human rights defenders and social leaders by demobilized members of illegal armed groups. The Commission insists that these crimes must be cleared up by the justice and peace magistrates when verifying full compliance with the eligibility requirements set out in Law 975.


50.       Respect for the rights to truth, justice, and full redress of the victims of the armed conflict are crucial in attaining a lasting peace, in strengthening the administration of justice in Colombia, and in guaranteeing that serious human rights violations are not repeated.


51.       The IACHR will continue to pursue its mandate of promoting and protecting human rights in Colombia during the demobilization process and in the interpretation and enforcement of its legal framework, by preparing general and special reports and by analyzing and issuing decisions in individual cases.


[47] National Planning Department (DNP), Directorate of Sustainable Territorial Development, “The Indigenous Peoples of Colombia on the Threshold of the New Millennium,” Bogotá 2004, page 33. According to the DNP, the largest peoples number between 32,899 and 149,827 members. Other groups have between 14,000 and 26,000 members. There are 39 indigenous peoples with fewer than 1000 inhabitants, and four peoples with fewer than 100 (the Dujos with 98, the Pisamira with 61, the Makaguaje with 50, and the Taiwano with 22). According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), 28 indigenous peoples number fewer than 500 inhabitants, 15 fewer than two hundred, and six fewer than a hundred. In 2001, Colombia’s National Planning Department estimated an indigenous population of 785,356, accounting for 1.83% of the country’s total population. The Colombian State has set up 648 indigenous reservations, which cover 27.02% of the nation’s territory and most of which are special conservation areas. See: updated information as of February 2006, Colombian Rural Development Institute (INCODER).

[48] Observatory of the Presidential Human Rights and IHL Program, situation indicators and law enforcement operational results (Comparison, 2005 and 2006).

[49] These were made up of 10,818 death threats, 33,219 attacks on civilian property, 15,504 combat incidents, 63,000 individuals confined or blockaded, 28 forced or involuntary disappearances, 279 cases of arbitrary arrest, 5,731 individuals affected by internal forced displacement, 75 woundings, 32 killings, two deaths caused by antipersonnel mines, two reported cases of pressganging, twelve kidnappings, 12,532 peasant farmers singled out by the parties in the conflict, and three people were charged with rebellion by the Colombian justice system. In addition, seven cases of torture and thirteen cases of rape and other forms of sexual abuse committed against indigenous women were reported. See: Chart, Comparative level of compliance with the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples. Bogotá D.C., September 2006. Information available on the web at

[50] Report of the International Verification Mission that visited Cauca, the Sierra Nevada, Córdoba, and Guaviare on September 19 to 29, 2006. Information available on the web at

[51] Observatory of the Presidential Human Rights and IHL Program, indicators on human rights and IHL in Colombia. January to March 2006. See also: United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights, office in Colombia, Bogotá, March 9, 2006.

[52] United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights, office in Colombia, “Condemnation of the massacre of five members of the Awa indigenous people,” August 9, 2006. Information available on the web at

[53] Doris Puchana, chief of one of the Awa reservations, reported that 50 members of the Awa indigenous people have been killed by the armed conflict in recent years and that 1,650 members of the people were displaced by fierce fighting between the security forces and FARC guerrillas in the area. The indigenous leader was speaking at a press conference organized by the United Nations in Bogotá with several organizations and indigenous communities from around the country to commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.


[54] Bulletin No. 69 from the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, Bogotá, Colombia, September 12, 2006. See:

[55] Observatory of the Presidential Human Rights and IHL Program, indicators on human rights and IHL in Colombia, January-March 2006.

[56] Bulletin No. 69 from the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, Bogotá, Colombia, September 12, 2006. Information available on the web at

[57] See also: “Forty-seven indigenous Colombians seek political asylum in Panama after fleeing their ancestral lands following death threats made by unlawful armed groups.’

[58] Bulletin No. 69 from the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, Bogotá, Colombia, September 12, 2006. See:

[59] Presentation by the Director of the office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bogotá, August 9, 2006.

[60] Communiqué from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, August 8, 2006. Information available on the web at See also the report from Latin American Human Rights Association, which states that 22 of the 54 indigenous peoples in the Colombian Amazonia are at high risk from the armed conflict. See: The Agony of the Jaguar: Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Colombian Amazonia, ALDHU, November 2003.

[61] “We have repeatedly warned that indigenous groups in Colombia are in danger from violence and even from extinction in this conflict. It is a tragedy not only for them, but for all humankind. Indigenous culture is intimately related to their ancestral lands, and forced displacements lead to the loss of traditions, culture, and language. To avoid that fate, many communities cling desperately to their lands, in spite of threats and violence.” Information available on the web at the United Nations News Centre:

[62] In 1988 the Nukak Makuk numbered 1200 members, of whom only 500 survive today. See: “Drugs war forces nomads out of the jungle.” Information available on the web at

[63] Drugs war forces nomads out of the jungle, April 3, 2006. See:

[64] Ibid.

[67] Note DDH/OEA 8821/0420 from the Department on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of the Foreign Relations Ministry of the Republic of Colombia, dated February 26, 2007, received the 27 of February, 2007, pages 28 to 40.

[68] Statistics from the Chocó Administrative Health Department, included in the report “Chocó: Territory of Riches and Survival: We Live to Resist, We Resist to Live.”

[69] Report “Chocó: Territory of Riches and Survival: We Live to Resist, We Resist to Live.”

[70] National Economic and Social Policy Council, National Planning Department, Document CONPES 3310, Affirmative Action Policy for the Black or Afro-Colombian Population, Bogotá, D.C., September 20, 2004.

[71] For a total of 11,745,403 individuals. Information submitted by the Colombian Commission of Jurists at the IACHR’s 126 regular session, held on October 16 to 27, 2006. See also: United Nations, Report by Mr. Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance, E/CN.4/2004/18/Add.3, February 23, 2004, paragraph 6. Also: “The forced displacement of communities of African descent: Reflections on uprootings, territory, and cultural identity,” Colombian Commission of Jurists. Chair of Scientific Research, Externado University of Colombia, Criminal Policy Research Center (CIPC).

[72] Journal Futuros No. 14, 2006 Vol. IV. Information available on the web at “Afro-Colombians, in search of laws against racism and inequality,” Geiler Romaña, fragment of a presentation given to Organization of American States at the special meeting to examine and discuss the nature of a future Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. November 28, 2005. Washington, D.C.

[73] CONPES 3169, Policy for the Afro-Colombian Population; and CONPES 3310, Affirmative Action Policy for the Black or Afro-Colombian Population. The aim of these policies was to improve the living standards of the Afro-Colombian population, increase their access to state social programs, ensure compliance with the commitments assumed by the Colombian Government at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance

[74] “The forced displacement of communities of African descent: Reflections on uprootings, territory, and cultural identity.” Colombian Commission of Jurists. Chair of Scientific Research, Externado University of Colombia, Criminal Policy Research Center (CIPC). See also: Ministry of the Interior and Justice, Decree Number 250 of February 7, 2005, “Issuing the National Plan for the Comprehensive Attention of Populations Displaced by the Violence and Enacting Other Provisions,” No. 5.1.1 f) 9).

[75] Communication from the Republic of Colombia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, No. DDH. OEA. 57304/2649, Bogotá D.C., November 7, 2006.