Colombia

Colombian army kills indigenous civilian: Violence escalates in Cauca and deepens humanitarian crisis for indigenous communities

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July 19, 2012

Eighteen year old Fabian Guetio Vasquez was killed by the Colombian Army in Caldono, Cauca, at 5 a.m. yesterday morning. Mr. Guetio was on his way to his father's home in the indigenous community of La Laguna when soldiers fatally shot him in the back of the neck. The commander of the Third Division of the Army was relieved of his post as a result of the murder. We join the indigenous communities' demand for justice, respect for their territorial and communal rights and respectful dialogue with the Colombian government to find a non-violent solution to this conflict.

Over the last two weeks, over 35 indigenous civilians have been injured, over 2,500 have been forcibly displaced, and a dozen disappeared as the armed conflict between the security forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) escalates in Cauca, Colombia. The Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (ACIN) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) have called for an end to fighting between the security forces and the FARC and called for all armed actors to leave the indigenous territories.

In this already extremely hostile climate, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and Army Commander Alejandro Navas made claims that the indigenous movement is infiltrated by the FARC[1], putting the community at greater risk by labeling them insurgents. We urge the Colombian government to immediately put an end to dangerous stigmatizations like these and take all the steps necessary to ensure the safety of the civilian population, as required under International Humanitarian Law.

The town of Toribío, the center of much of the recent conflict, has been victim to over 500 attacks in the last 30 years. In 2012 alone, the FARC has attacked this community over a dozen times. In this context, the ACIN and CRIC reiterate their historical call for peace.

Furthermore, it is essential that the Colombian government recognizes that construction of military bases within indigenous territories requires free, prior and informed consent from the community under Colombian and international law. We welcome the Colombian government's agreement to begin dialogue with the indigenous communities of Northern Cauca today and we urge the government to fully implement the community's proposals, respecting their rights to self-determination and informed consent.

66 of Colombia's 102 indigenous peoples are at risk of extinction, and the conflict in Cauca is replicated in several indigenous communities throughout Colombia. The situation is critical and it is time for the Colombian government to listen to the concerns of the indigenous communities, respect their legitimate authorities and to take the necessary steps to protect this vulnerable population that has disproportionately suffered the consequences of the country's ongoing conflict. The FARC should also respect International Humanitarian Law and the requests of the indigenous communities and withdraw from their territory.

US Office on Colombia

Washington Office on Latin America

Latin America Working Group

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Witness for Peace

Amazon Watch

[1] See: http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/colombia/noticias/gobierno-mantendra-su-presencia-en-cauca-mindefensa

http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/occidente/la-agresion-indigena-que-hizo-llorar-al-sargento-garcia_12040902-4