Colombia’s Constitutional Court has claimed that special prisons built specifically for members of indigenous communities are necessary so as to not violate their rights as a protected group, El Espectador reported Wednesday.
According to the court’s ruling, incarceration in common prisons amounts to forced assimilation and integration, thus violating the rights of indigenous communities and threatening their cultural values, social and ethnic identities, and traditional institutions.
The decision was handed down in relation to a murder case dating from 1991 in which the court ruled that the defendant, Leonardo Gegary Tunugama, was “convicted illegally” of killing two people from his indigenous Embera community. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1995.
While Gegary was tried through the common justice system, the Constitutional Court has ruled that he should have been tried in a special jurisdiction court.
The ruling said “it is necessary reiterate the legal obligation to provide special prison establishments for people under special protection, like indigenous people, who independently of the applicable jurisdiction, should serve the sentence in…a native or traditional place conducive to full efficacy of indigenous justice.”
The purpose, it claims, it to “maintain and fortify the indigenous features, languages, and traditions which form part of the idiosyncrasy of the Colombian national state.”
There are currently about 1,000 indigenous prisoners in Colombian prisons.
In October of last year, the National Prison Authority announced that work had begun on the first Indigenous Agricultural Penal Colony in the state of Cauca, which has the third highest indigenous population in the country.