Leaders of Colombian Wayuu People Go into Exile to Escape Violence and CriminalizationPublished by MAC on 2010-03-02
Last October, a Wayuu Indigenous leader, Karmen Ramirez Boscan, was in London to criticise mining multinational BHP Billiton for involvement in unacceptable operations, by the company and its partners, at the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia.
Since returning to Colombia, Karmen and her colleagues have suffered threats from paramilitaries for their organisational work, and their criticisms of the Cerrejon mine's operations.
Following these threats, Karmen's organisation, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, issued an Urgent Action Request (below).
Leaders of Colombian Wayuu People Go into Exile to Escape Violence and Criminalization
22 February 2010
3 indigenous leaders from the Fuerzas de Mujeres Wayuu (FMW) (Force of Wayuu Women) movement have recently been forced to leave their territory in order to protect their lives. Their work in defence of their territory, as well as their international denunciations about the operations of transnational companies in their territory, have resulted in them being threatened by paramilitaries and the criminalization of their activities. Several members of the Organización Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu have become the target of investigations and extrajudicial followings, by the Uribe government in response to their work. This has all become a lot worse in the last few months.
One of the women who has been forced into exile recently participated in the Climate and Social Justice Caravan in Europe during the mobilizations around the Copenhagen climate Summit. Another of the persecuted leaders is a health and medicine coordinator in the village of Cuatro Vías. This is where the train which transports coal from the Cerrejon open pit coal mine passes by. The companies which form part of the Cerrejón coal complex are: BHP Billiton, Anglo American Plc, Glencore and Xtrata.
In the beginning of February 2010, the UNHCR - UN High Commission on Refugees -, together with the MAPOEA-Support Mission for the Peace Process in Colombia, and the Early Warning Systems from the Defensoría del Pueblo carried out a fact finding mission in the Alta Guajira to document militarization by paramilitary groups and the violation of the Wayuu People's human rights. Despite this monitoring, the Colombian government continues to show a complicit indifference, leaving the leaders no other option but to go into exile and necessitating that they demand formal Protective Measures from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
Below is a detailed document in which the organization presents their situation and calls for international solidarity.
The Colombian organizational alliance, Force of Wayuu Women [La Alianza Organizativa Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu,] calls upon the Peoples of Latin America and the World, and on public opinion throughout the world, to denounce the recent harassment that the collective is experiencing. The situation has resulted in members of this movement being forced to leave Colombia and move to Venezuela.
1. Risk Report No. 002 [Informe de Riesgo No. 002] for Maicao, dated the 27th January 2009 (from now on referred to as IR. No. 002-09) issued by the Defonsoria del Pueblo's Early Warning System [Sistema de Alertas Tempranas (SAT) de la Defensoría del Pueblo] explicitly mentions the fact that the women and men leaders of the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu (FMW) movement, are vulnerable to aggression and attacks by armed groups. This is due to the organizational work that they are carrying out, involving their participation in various national and international fora where where they have denounced the human rights situation of the Wayúu people. The report also highlighted the fact that some of the organization's activists have been systematically subjected to threats and intimidations, already for some time.
2. In the same vain, with Risk Report No. 017 of the Intermediate Reach for Riohacha and Dibulla, dated 9th July 2009 [Informe de Riesgo No. 017 de 9 de julio de 2009 de Alcance Intermedio para Riohacha y Dibulla] (from now on referred to as IR. No. 017-09-A.I), the Defensoría del Pueblo reiterated once again that the women and men leaders of the SJW-FMW are at high risk. In particular, the report concludes that one particular section of the Wayuu communities especially warranted protective measures, namely the women and men leaders of the movement Sütsüin Jiyeyu Wayúu - Fuerza de Mujeres Wayúu (SJW/FMW) who live, and carry out their political activities, in Riohacha and Dibulla. In the last weeks, every time that they carried out political and organizational work in La Guajira concerning defence of territories and the rights of the Wayúu victims to access the truth, justice and reparations, as well as when they were critical of megaprojects, the leaders were followed more often and experienced an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats by the illegal armed structures that exist in the wake of the demobilization of the AUC. These armed actors perceived their demands and struggles as getting in the way of their interests.
3. Furthermore, the above mentioned IR. No.017-09-A.I indicates that the Wayúu communities located in the area of the Caribbean Trunk Road [Carretera Troncal del Caribe] especially on the route between Riohacha y Dibulla and Wepiapaa, Santa Rosa and Las Delicias Reserve, to mention just a few places, are at risk. This is due to the serious territorial dispute which is currently underway between rival illegal armed structures that exist following the demobilization of the AUC. According to the IR. No. 002-09, and for reasons cited above, this means that the Wayuu communities in the corregimientos in the border area with Venezuela, Carraipía and La Majayura are especially at risk, as well as some other different neighbourhoods. [note: this is a Colombian legal administrative term, that approximately translates in English to village level authority]
The reports issued by the Defensoría del Pueblo by way of its Early Warning System [Sistema de Alertas Tempranas] warned of the risk faced by members of FMW. In May 2009, two women from this organization received death threats. This led to their decision to leave the territory. Despite the fact that one of the women has now returned, they have both had to restrict their movements. The recent threats have meant that three other members of the organziation also find themselves forced to leave the territory. With its complicit silence, the state institutions have shown complete apathy concerning the recommendations contained in these reports. Such behaviour is very typical of the Colombian "democratic security" government.
Levels of fear are increasing. The following members of the organization Force of Wayuu Women [Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu] have become victims of extrajudicial investigations and are being followed by the Colombian army, because of "supposed links with groups classified as terrorist": Karmen Ramírez Boscán, Leonor Viloria and Linnei Ospina. This is due to their international work denouncing and intervening about the impacts of transnational companies, the armed conflict and the destructive policies that the Colombian government pursues against indigenous peoples. The fear of losing their freedom or of being killed by armed actors, due to the seriousness of these false accusations has forced these members of the organization to leave their territory. Some remain in Colombian, others have left the country. In this respect, Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Envoy about the situation of human rights defenders, issued these preliminary conclusions following her visit to Colombia in September 2009: "a fundamental reason for the insecurity experience by human rights defenders lies in them having false accusations levelled against them and their systematic targeting by government functionaries [which accuse them of being] "terrorists" or "members of the guerrilla".
We denounce the systematic extermination and marginalization of indigenous peoples in Colombia and the persecution and murder of their leaders, in a country where genocidal and repressive operations occur against these peoples. By way of an example, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that according to the Constitutional Court's auto 004, 34 indigenous Peoples are at risk of being displaced, due to factors relating to the war. The Wayuu are amongst these peoples. 4 million people throughout the country have been forcibly displaced and are victims of massacres by the paramilitary, the army or the guerrilla.
In July 2008, the Peoples' Tribunal [Tribunal de los Pueblos] in Colombia levelled charges against the Alvaro Uribe Vélez government consisting of genocide against the indigenous peoples and for criminalizing their resistance movements. It must be emphasised that indigenous peoples have been, and continue to be, repressed and threatened, suffering assaults, raids and the loss of their liberty.
- For the above reasons, we call upon the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) to seriously consider implementing Medidas Cautelares for the board members of Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, as well as the local Wayuu communities which belong to FMW in La Guajira. [note: Medidas Cautelares is a specific legal mechanism to formally ensure that Protective Measures are applied].
- We demand that the Colombian government puts in place protective measures for those members of the Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu organization who remain in the territory at high risk, and also that it guarantees the safe return of the 4 members who have been forced to leave the territory. In this sense we demand that the Colombian Cancillería convenes an urgent meeting to concretize follow up to the Medidas Cautelares.
- We demand that the government of the Bolivarian Repúblic of Venezuela offers protective measures and the due assistance as envisaged in international agreements concerning refugees to the members of FMW who are already in Venezuelan territory. In the same way, we also demand that they receive appropriate differential treatment that not only takes into account the fact that they are women, but also that they are indigenous Wayuu People, where the women experience different levels of treatment and participation..
- Finally we make a fraternal appeal to national and international human rights organizations, to Diplomatic Missions and Corps accredited to work in Colombia, and to the Peace and Human Rights Commissions in the Colombian Senate that they write to the Colombian Authorities to demand that they act in accordance with the Constitution and honour the country's international commitments in terms of human rights and that they monitor the serious situation of the Wayuu People.
"Porque en Wounmainkat, los Únicos Gigantes Somos los Wayuu"
"Because in Wounmainkat, the Only Giants are We the Wayuu"
Campaign for the Elimation of all forms of Violence Against Our Earth, Wounmainkat
Casa de la Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu
Cuatro Vías, Maikou (Wajiira)
19th Febraury 2010
Please direct your correspondence to the following addresses:
Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos)
President of the Republic (Presidencia de la República)
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez,
Cra. 8 No..7-26, Palacio de Nariño,
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71
Defensoría del Pueblo
Dr. Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz.
Calle 55 No. 10-32
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571) 640 04 91
UNHCR, Colombian Office (Oficina del ACNUR en Colombia)
Oficina en Bogotá D.C
Cll 113 N° 7-21 Torre A Of 601 Edificio Teleport
Tel (091) 6580600 Fax 6580602
Parque Cristal, Piso 4, Oficina 4/4
Urbanización Los Palos Grandes
Avenida Francisco de Miranda
Tel. (58 212) 286-3883
Fax (58 212) 286-9687
EMBASSY OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA IN COLOMBIA
Central Telefónica: (0057-1) 644.55.55