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COLOMBIA
Slow path to justice
7/1/2009
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Killings of indigenous community members move to court.

Three members of Colombia´s military will face a trial for the January 2006 killings of three indigenous Wayu community members. A state prosecutor specializing in human rights charged one army lieutenant and three soldiers for the murders of three members, including a minor, of a Wayu community in the Guajira department more than three years ago, whose bodies were discovered and presented as combat deaths.

Separately, the Attorney General´s Office filed charges against an army official and a soldier for the death of a Wiwa indigenous woman in March 2006. The woman, also from the Guajira department, was killed as a “false positive,” an expression used by Colombia´s military in which “positive” means the killing of a rebel.

But not all killings are at the hands of the military.

In late June, Colombia´s Ombusman Vólmar Pérez denounced the killings of indigenous leaders Marino Mestizo and Edwin Yatacué, of the Nasa people, who appeared to be killed by the FARC near their home in the southwestern Cauca department.

In a June 25 statement, an umbrella organization of indigenous groups of northern Cauca, or ACIN, said that Mestizo was a former leader of the community action board, and was killed by three shots in the head by hooded men on during a motorcycle drive-by shooting.

The group said Mestizo had previously received death threats from armed groups for its opposition to their activities, including cocaine production on the indigenous reservation where he and his community lived.

“We hope for manifestations of commitment and international solidarity from people who still defend life and justice,” the group said.

Indigenous groups in Colombia are often caught in the crossfire of the internal conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the military.

In its annual report, Amnesty International said indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and campesinos are most at risk in the internal conflict, partly because “many lived in areas of economic and strategic interest to the warring parties.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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