A Wayuu indigenous leader accuses the Colombian government of genocide in a complaint filed with the United Nations (UN).
“Many of the over 100 recognized indigenous peoples in Colombia are victims of genocide because of attacks by paramilitary groups that are fighting for territory, gasoline smuggling and drug trafficking in Venezuela,” said Wayuu community leader Angelica Ortiz.
“We come to seek the intervention of the UN mechanisms to curb the continuing serious violations of human rights, with an internal conflict that increases violence,” said a lawyer representing Ortiz.
More than 60 Colombian indigenous communities are in danger of disappearing as they fall victim to hunger and the ongoing armed conflict, according to the president of the country’s National Indigenous Organization, Luis Evelis Andrade.
Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world — 3.67 million according to the last UN estimate, though others put the figure as high as 5.5 million. Displaced people are at a higher risk of death due to armed conflict and a lack of adequate food, shelter and health care.
A disproportionate amount come from indigenous communities. Ortiz called on Colombia to do more to prevent internal forced displacement in Colombia.
The UN defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group” by “killing members of the group” or “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
The Wayuu have asked Colombia to respect the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which promises consultation with a group prior to any process that may “affect their rights, lands and natural resources.”
Eight major mining and energy initiatives are underway in the La Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia, where the Wayuu people live. The development projects have encroached on their land, forcing many to leave their homes.
Colombia’s historic Victims and Land Restitution Law, intended to compensate an estimated four million victims of Colombia’s armed conflict, including IDPs, came into effect January 1 2012. The law seeks to restore land to millions of the country’s IDPs over the next decade.