From Press Office – Reiniciar Corporation[i]
Sent Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 14:20
COLOMBIA ABSTAINS FROM SIGNING THE UN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
( Translated by Dave Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)
SENT BY THE COLOMBIAN NGO REINICIAR
Prensa Reiniciar. Bogotá, Sept 24, 2007.
After 20 years of arduous negotiations, the General Assembly of the United Nations finally adopted the declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples
With a vote of 143 countries in favor, 4 against (Australia, Canada, United States and New Zealand) and 11 abstentions including Colombia.
The Reiniciar Corporation, celebrates the triumph of the more than 370 million indigenous peoples of the World, but laments the position of the Colombian Government in abstaining from voting on the Declaration, using the argument that certain provisions contradict the legal order and state powers.
Throughout 46 articles the Declaration establishes minimal parameters with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples. The ownership of the land is one of the most emphasized points. By this, the states need to ensure the recognition and legal protection of indigenous inhabited territories. Article 10 declares that “The indigenous peoples will not be displaced by force from their lands and territories. That there will be no relocations without the prior free and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned, nor without a prior accord regarding the just and equitable indemnification, and, where possible, with the option of return.”
Equally, the document recognizes the free access of the indigenous to natural resources, the respect and preservation of their cultural traditions as well as their self determination.
The United Nation establishes in this declaration that it is urgent and necessary to respect and promote the rights of the indigenous peoples affirmed in treaties, accords, and other positive agreements with the individual nation states.
Indigenous Peoples in Colombia.
84 different indigenous groups exist in Colombia with a total population of approximately 785,000 distributed throughout the greater portion of national territory. In spite of their cultural richness, the socioeconomic conditions under which they are living are precarious. Moreover, numerous leaders have been systematically persecuted during their carrying out of actions in defense of their territories.
It is necessary to keep in mind that our constitution is the one in the entire world that most recognizes the rights of these peoples. Nevertheless, this set of our laws and norms have remained in effect only on paper. The systematic negation by the government of the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities was confirmed by its abstention from signing the Declaration.
The internal armed conflict is one of the factors that has hit these communities the hardest. Many of the inhabited territories are in regions disputed militarily by the main actors in the conflict: paramilitaries, guerillas and public forces.
The national government has stigmatized these communities with being collaborators of one or the other armed group. The militarization of the territories as a government strategy to exercise a presence there has unleashed a series of fundamental human rights violations that have been widely denounced before human rights organizations as before the international community.
This panorama was recorded in the Report presented in November, 2004 by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People, Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen.
During his visit to our country, the Special Rapporteur recorded multiple testimonies regarding the devastating effects of the conflict in the indigenous communities. Assassinations, tortures, massive displacements, forced disappearances, involuntary recruiting of young people into combatant units, the rape of women and the occupation of the territories on the part of the armed actors are some of the factors that have made the existence of the indigenous communities so vulnerable in our country.
The Special Rapporteur indicates that some of these communities find themselves on the edge of extinction, because of the assassinations of their leaders, massacres, threats and the forced dispersion of their population.
The Special Rapporteur expressed his preoccupation regarding the systematic extermination to which the Kankuamo peoples in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, the Wayúu in the Guajira, the Embera Katío in the Alto Sinú, and Embera Chamí of Caldas and Riseralda have been subjected at the hands of paramilitary groups that operate in these regions where there is a high presence of multinational petroleum and coal companies or which are strategic drug trafficking corridors.
In the case of the Embera Chamí and Wayúu peoples, the Reiniciar Corporation is the petitioning entity for the Precautionary Measures that the Interamerican Comission on Human Rights declared in the years 2002 and 2004 in the face of this barbarity with which they have been exterminated in their regions at the hands of paramilitary groups.
In the light of this panorama, it is of vital importance that the national government accede to the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of the Indigenous peoples and support compliance with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples in his 2004 Report, tools that will permit the stopping of these factors of violence mentioned above and that maintain many of our ethnicities on the edge of extinction.
Corporation for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights – Reiniciar (re-beginning), is a nongovernmental organization devoted to demanding the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms of Colombians, in accordance with the international obligations taken on by the Colombian State and established in the national Constitution. Due to our origin and background, CORPORACIÓN REINICIAR is specially oriented to the defense of civil and political rights, with an integral and comprehensive understanding of human rights.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621