URGENT NEED TO PROTECT CIVILIANS
Five Indigenous People Dead in the Agua Bonita Sector of Robles & Fighting in the Community Council of Bella Vista
The undersigned organizations denounce the current situation in the state of Cauca. We reaffirm the demands made by black, indigenous, and peasant communities, urban sectors, social organizations, unions and human rights defenders, that the armed groups call a bilateral cease-fire. We call on the representatives of both the Colombian Government and the FARC negotiating teams in Habana, to speak in a frank, open, and quick manner to the communities that are suffering the consequences of these new confrontations. We demand that they commit to upholding national and international human right, and international humanitarian laws.
We demand adherence to Protocols I and II of the Geneva Convention, including Title 4: Civilian Population, articles 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 and especially article 13 which states:
- The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules shall be observed in all circumstances.
- The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
- Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Part, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
We ask national and international human rights organizations to demand that the respective parties respect the civilian population and commit to an immediate bilateral cease-fire.
As we write this, we are informed that Black and Indigenous communities are confined, have neither electricity nor potable water. Meanwhile the national government announces bombardments without heeding the dire circumstances of the communities that inhabit those territories. Below we share a summary of the events.
Black and Indigenous Lives are Not an Afterthought
Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Northern Cauca
Beginning on April 12, conflict between the Colombian military and the FARC escalated in Buenos Aires and Suarez. In addition to the eleven soldiers that were killed in Buenos Aires on April 14, several Black and Indigenous communities have been confined by the intensity of the gunfire exchanged in combat. Five civilians were killed as a result of combat in Agua Bonita, Los Robles in the municipality of Suarez, Cauca. Currently combat has confined the communities of the Afro-Colombian Community Council of Bella Vista.
The Colombian Government and the FARC must keep the civilian communities out of the armed conflict. The armed actors must respect the life, territories, and forms organization of the communities.
On April 10, 2015, Fiderson Guillermo Pavi Ramos – an eighteen-year-old Nasa Indigenous leader – was shot a few meters away from a trench occupied by the Colombian Army and the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) in the municipality of Caloto. The ESMAD blocked the road when people tried to take him to the hospital. On April 13, officials confirmed that he was killed after being shot three times. Over the course of the last five months, the military and police have used force to stop Indigenous communities in Northern Cauca from reclaiming black and indigenous ancestral territories stolen by sugarcane companies.
These violations occurred within a context of ongoing threats and attacks against Afro-descendant and Indigenous movements and leaders by the Rastrojos Urban Command and the Black Eagles of Valle del Cauca paramilitary groups. The paramilitaries explicitly state that they threaten the communities because they are resisting gold mining by outsiders. Twenty-two Black and Indigenous leaders were threatened in February 2015 alone.
Many of the conflicts in Northern Cauca were started and have persisted because the Colombian state does not guarantee the respect for Black and Indigenous collective rights to autonomy and self-determination. For more than twenty years, the government has exacerbated the conflict by systematically ignoring agreements and laws that would support peace and justice.
We strongly recommend that the international community should pressure the Colombian government to:
- Respect International Humanitarian Law and protect the lives of civilians.
- Fully implement the following laws, decrees, and official agreements: Decree 92 of 1999, Sentence 21630 by the State Council, Constitutional Court Sentence T1045-A of 2010, and Constitutional Court Orders 004, 005, and 092 of 2009.
- Comply with the following accords with Black communities: the Popayán Accords of November 9, 2013; the Santander de Quilichao Accords of May 7, 2014; and the Bogota Accords of December 11, 2014.
- Fully investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and intellectual authors of the threats, attacks, and murders of Black and Indigenous leaders in Northern Cauca.
- Guarantee on the ground, transparent, and independent civilian oversight of the Colombian Military in Northern Cauca.
- Provide humanitarian support for threatened, confined, and displaced communities and establish an appropriate registry for the support.
- Guarantee the conditions for an international verification mission that can provide information and recommendations for confined communities.
Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN)
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca (ACIN)
Asociación para la Investigación y Acción Social (NOMADESC)
Asociación de Consejos Comunitarios del Norte del Cauca.
Movimiento de Victimas de Crímenes de Estado – Capitulo Valle
Resguardo Indígena de Honduras
Cabildo Cerro Tijeras
Congreso de los Pueblos – Valle del Cauca
Alexander López Maya – Senador de la Republica
Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN)
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Colombia Land Rights Monitor
Latin America Working Group
War on Want
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
Movimiento Jaguar Despierto