Quito, Ecuador November 13, 2019 – Colombia remains non-compliant with the precautionary measures issued on behalf of the Siona people by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over a year and a half ago, putting them at continued risk of physical and cultural extermination.
“The situation faced by our people in the Gonzaya (Buenavista) and PoPiyuya (Piñuña) indigenous reserves is exacerbated by the presence of multiple armed actors. Once again, the Siona people’s movement is restricted to a small area of our territory, we have been displaced and threatened by forced recruitment. Because our movements are limited by these armed actors, we cannot carry out essential cultural and spiritual survival practices at night,” said Sandro Piaguaje Cabrera, Governor of the Siona Reserve in Buenavista, during a working meeting held with the Colombian Government during the 174th session of the IACHR in Quito (Ecuador).
Mario Erazo, Leader of the Siona Reservation of Buenavista stated, “The precautionary measures must be maintained in our territory, and must be implemented in a comprehensive manner, through a differentiated and culturally sensitive approach.”
During the session before the IACHR, the Siona People and their representatives acknowledged that in August 2019 the Colombian Foreign Ministry and other State institutions attended a coordination meeting in indigenous territory. However, the government officials present at the meeting had no decision-making or budget-granting power, making it an inappropriate response to the needs and requests presented by the communities. Because this previous meeting yielded little to no results, the traditional, spiritual and political authorities of the Siona People highlighted the encounter as a source of indignation at the working meeting with the IACHR held today, and welcomed the proposal of the Colombian State to hold a new coordination meeting.
Moreover, the beneficiaries of the protection measures and the organizations that accompany them are confident that this time, the state–in good faith–will guarantee the collective protection of the community and the territory of the Siona People.
“Colombia must guarantee the Siona People an effective, concrete response framed by a differentiated approach. It is not enough to provide words of good will, given the risk and vulnerability of these communities. It is urgent that this process ends with concrete, suitable and effective protection measures for the Siona”, said Lina María Espinosa, Senior Attorney from Amazon Frontlines.
Additionally, the petitioners pointed out that the militarization of indigenous territories exacerbates the situation of risk facing the Siona People, as it goes against the way in which the community makes decisions and develops its systems of self-governance. Furthermore, the presence of the military stigmatizes the work done by the indigenous guard in defense of the Siona’s ancestral lands.
“The IACHR must monitor the implementation of protection measures granted to the Siona people to ensure their full compliance,” said Francisco Quintana, director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) for the Andean Region, North America and the Caribbean. “The lack of guarantees to security faced by social and indigenous leaders in Colombia requires that international protections be effective and culturally appropriate”.
The organizations Amazon Frontlines, CEJIL, the Organización Nacional de los Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana (OPIAC), the Secretaría Operativa de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos Indígenas de Colombia (CDDHHPI), the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR), the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES) are the petitioners in this matter before the IACHR, and the working meeting in Quito was attended by over 30 political and traditional Siona authorities and members of the indigenous guard of the Gonzaya and PoPiyuya reserves.