President of the Republic of Colombia
President of the Interamerican Commision on Human Rights
Francisco Cali Tzay
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defender
On April 20th, Sandra Liliana Peña Choqué, governor of the La Laguna Reserve in Siberia of the Caldono municipality in the department of Cauca, was cowardly murdered in her home. Sandra Liliana emphatically led the assemblies and traditional authorities determined to self govern her ancestral territory which was gravely attacked by regular and irregular armed actors that attempted to gain control through strategies of displacement and other methods.
The signers of this request for URGENT ACTION note with great concern that this is not an isolated act. Not only did the relevant institutions have sufficient information about the risks faced by Sandra Liliana, which were presented repeatedly during spaces within the Minga Nacional por la Vida and other reiterated requests, complaints, and demands, but especially because in Colombia this year alone 52 leaders and human rights defenders have been killed (18 of them Indigenous and more than 1,166 since the Peace Accords were signed according to Indepaz. Despite this, the government of President Duque had not implemented minimum measures for her protection.
Throughout this year, Indigenous and human rights organizations have denounced the significant increase in armed narco-paramilitary incidents in Indigenous territories that provoke, among other consequences, displacement, confinement, recruitment and extermination of Indigenous people. This is the reality present in a number of Indigenous territories across the country, and in a particularly acute and systematic way in the Cauca region.
We therefore echo their demands to the national government “so that it attends to this situation immediately, as the omission to do so is an act that contributes the genocide of Indigenous peoples; and that the alternative is not more militarization but rather strengthening of autonomous Indigenous Gaurds, the establishment of dialogue between state and Indigenous authorities and the implementation of the Peace Accords.”
In the face of increasing acts of violence against members of Indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, social leaders and signers of the Peace Accords it is of the utmost priority that the Colombian State adopt urgent and integral measures to reinforce systems aimed at the prevention of violence and the protection of these collectives, as well as the advancement of due diligence in the investigation of crimes committed against them. Particularly, the establishment and implementation of appropriate protection measures in coordination with Indigenous authorities in Cauca, and the carrying out of spiritual and physical protection measures to harmonize and prevent the varied violations of human rights that threaten their territories and survival, is urgent.
We therefore DEMAND that President Duque, in keeping with national and international obligations, guarantees the implementation of the Peace Accords so that conditions exist in Colombia to defend human rights and the rights of Indigenous communities and to guarantee the work of defenders and leaders like Sandra Liliana that within their authority develop legitimate actions for the protection of their territories and safety, often in the structural absence of the State, the systematic non-compliance of agreement and the militarization of their territories.
In relation to the murder of Sandra Liliana we demand that the Fiscalía General de la Nación, the Procuraduría, the Defensoría del Pueblo and other organisms tasked with the investigation of this murder determine with dilligence those responsible for the material and intellectual crimes and charge them accordingly, with the objective that this act is not added to the list of hundreds of murders of Indigenous leaders of Cauca that remain in impunity. At the same time, it is imperative that urgent and culturally appropriate measures are adopted to avoid similar crimes.
We elevate this knowledge of the current situation to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the situation of human rights defenders requiring their immediate intervention in compliance with their mandate. Particularly, to remind the Colombian State of its obligation to provide an environment free of hostilities and the respect of fundamental liberties of human rights defenders and social leaders within the framework of the implementation of the Peace Accords so they can freely and effectively carry out their labor, and of the international implications that the omission of this obligation carries.
To the family of Sandra Liliana, her community, the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, the Indigenous Guard, the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca and each and every Indigenous community of the Nasa peoples, we extend our deepest sympathies, our solidarity and our accompaniment before the serious incidents and continued threats you face.