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COLOMBIA
Month of violence against indigenous leaders
9/8/2010
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Human rights defenders demand investigation into murders of indigenous leaders.

Human rights and indigenous groups are demanding the Colombian government investigate the murders of three indigenous leaders and one of their wives, who were killed between Aug. 13 and Aug. 26.

Carmen Elisa Mora Uncacia of the U´wa people, a pregnant mother of two, was attacked in her home on Aug. 13. She had worked in the Indigenous Affairs Office at the mayoral office of Saravena in the northeastern Arauca department. A day later, Jaime Reyes of the Sikuani people, a leader who was in the town of Tame and lived in the Parreros reserve in the same department, was killed. He had been living in forced displacement. Then, on Aug. 26, Ramiro Inampues and his wife, both of the Pasto indigenous group were kidnapped, sparking an outcry from Colombia Ombudsman´s Office, and various human and indigenous rights groups. Inampues, who lived on the Guachucal indigenous reserve, where he had been governor in the western Nariño province, and his wife, were found two days later there, their bodies riddled with bullet holes.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement that “attacks on indigenous leaders and authorities break down the cohesion of indigenous peoples.”

“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,” it said.

Indigenous groups in Colombia are among the most vulnerable to the more than four-decade armed conflict there, as they are frequently caught in the crossfire between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country´s largest guerrilla group, paramilitaries and the military.

In early August, United Nations agencies operating in Colombia launched a campaign to urge the new government of President Juan Manuel Santos to better protect indigenous people, who number about 1.4 million of the country´s some 40 million people, noting that murders of indigenous citizens increased 63 percent in Colombia between 2008 and 2009.

The armed conflict has caused large-scale forced displacement of the country´s indigenous people. In late August, the Ombudsman´s Office and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced they would send a joint commission to the Guayabero indigenous community in south-central Colombia to evaluate the impending forced displacement of 150 indigenous community members, among them 75 minors, after reports that they were under threat from illegal armed groups.
–Latinamerica Press.


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