Herbicide Spraying, Anti-personnel mines, kidnapping and armed confrontations affect the lives of children in the Colombian Department of Narino

Press Release
Humanidad Vigente
Friday, March 18, 2011, 17:11
(Translated by Rolf Schöneborn, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.)
The Colombian armed conflict has brought about various incidents in the Nariño
Department bordering Ecuador in the first two months of this year that not only violated
the human rights of children in this region but also endangered their lives.
Two Colombian human rights organizations (‘Humanidad Vigente’,
www.humanidadvigente.net, and ‘el Proyecto Aporte al Bienestar Integral de las Niñas
Rurales’), have been calling attention to how changes and intensification of the armed
conflict affect the lives of children and adolescents in this department.
Five members of the indigenous Pastos Nation (Túquerres Reserve, Santander Township,
Túquerres Municipality – Nariño) were killed and sixteen wounded, of whom two were
regrettably children.
On the same day 14-year-old Jose Richard Rodriguez, a member of the indigenous Awá,
Hojal La Turbia Reserve, Nariño, was killed by an anti-personnel mine. Some time later,
on February 7, 2011, two adults and the 16-year-old María Fernanda Canticus Pascal
were gravely injured by an anti-personnel mine on the same Indian reserve.
Furthermore, a 4-year-old indigenous child of the Pastos community was kidnapped in
the Boyera district, a rural area of the Cumbal Municipality (Nariño) on February 13,
2011. Although the child was finally rescued by the authorities, this incident shows once
again how precarious the lives of children really are in this Colombian department.
Also, children of the indigenous Awá community suffered when Colombian State
planes and helicopters sprayed the Predio el Verdel, Gran Sábalo Reserve, Barbacoas
Municipality – Nariño for more than 30 minutes.
According to the charges made by the indigenous association UNIPA (Unidad Indígena
del Pueblo Awá), children of the Awa community were at an educational center, with
some students in their classrooms and some on a break: at the same time 80 members
of the community had assembled at the local indigenous healthcare office, among them
nursing babies for health checkups and shots. All of them went outside when they heard
the planes and were doused with the herbicide glyphosate. It is not known at this point
how this will affect their health in the long run.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha –
Colombia) has pointed out that there have been armed confrontations between the
Colombian Army and FARC guerrilla forces on the Awá reserves Magüi and Cuchilla
del Palmar, Ricaurte Municipality since February 21. This has led to the massive
displacement of more than 200 Awá families that in the meantime found shelter in
schools and other educational facilities on the reserve, as a result of being threatened by
crossfire, anti-personnel mines and unexploded ammunition (MAP and MUSE).
Moreover, a two -month-old baby was kidnapped in the El Tambor district, Tangua
Municipality, just 15 minutes away from the department capital Pasto on February 22.
The baby was rescued and was turned over to her parents three days later. Although there
is no obvious link between this incident and the growing socio-political violence, it is
quite obvious that children in this region are increasingly at risk.
In light of this, we would like to join the wake-up call of Colombian social organizations
such as the Permanent Committee for Human Rights CPDH- Nariño) and point to the
reports issued by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (CIDH), and the
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), urging the
Colombian state to pay immediate attention to this crisis and take precautionary measures
The Colombian State is called upon to protect the rights of boys, girls and adolescents
(NNA in Spanish) in a commonly accepted manner. Children’s rights are more important
than all others and therefore national and regional authorities are obligated to arrange
for policies, programs, action plans for the protection of children that ensure the right
to life and the physical, moral, and psychological integrity of the Narino children and
The Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Colombia on January 28, 1991,
states the following in article 35: “States Parties shall take all appropriate national,
bilateral, and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction of, the sale of, or traffic in
the children for any purpose or in any form.” The events over the last months in Nariño
Department have shown that the Colombian State has not fully met its obligation to
ensure the safety and protection of children. Indigenous children who are also entitled to
said protection have been most at risk.
But article 38, section 4 reads: “In accordance with their obligations under international
humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall
take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by
an armed conflict.” We call on the government of Colombia to make every effort in
terms of its public policies to make sure that these rights laid down in this convention are
respected which has not been the case in the Nariño Department in the last months.
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