Location of the massacre.
We condemn the FARC guerrillas, in the strongest terms, for massacring as many as eighteen members of the AwÃ¡ indigenous community in a remote zone in the department of NariÃ±o, in southwestern Colombia. If the group’s leadership had sought to generate goodwill with last week’s unilateral hostage releases, reports of the NariÃ±o killings has undone that entire effort.
The atrocity took place on February 4, when “the Farc detained a group of indigenous families and accused them of collaborating with the army,” according to NariÃ±o’s governor, Antonio Navarro, a prominent leftist politician who was a top leader of the M-19 guerrilla insurgency in the 1970s and 1980s. “One of the young men escaped and has said that they had been tied up and beaten and that they were killing them with knives.”
The victims are members of a badly battered indigenous ethnicity that has been struggling for survival. The AwÃ¡ were the subject of one of the first posts ever to appear on this blog, in November 2004. We wrote then:
After four years of Plan Colombia and two years of Democratic Security – two strategies that have pushed drugs and violence from other zones to their once-peaceful lands – the AwÃ¡ people are reeling. Many are displacing, leaving for Pasto [NariÃ±o's capital], for Ecuador. A fiercely independent and well-organized group, the AwÃ¡, usually through UNIPA [the AwÃ¡ Peopleâ€™s Indigenous Unity organization], have repeatedly sought to denounce abuses and plead for help before various Colombian government institutions, with almost no response. The governmentâ€™sÂ non-miltary presence in rural Ricaurte remains virtually nil.
Here is a translation of the declaration released last night by the UNIPA and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
UNIPA and ONIC Denounce Massacre Committed by the FARC Against Members of the TortugaÃ±a Telembi Indigenous Reserve in Barbacoas – NariÃ±o.
- We call on an integral humanitarian Minga [joining of forces] to enter the massacre site.
- A humanitarian plan consulted with the participation of the AwÃ¡ authorities.
- That the state, the government and the FARC Secratariat make clear their positions.
The AwÃ¡ People’s Indigenous Unity UNIPA and the ONIC make clear that the serious situation of violations of human rights, of IHL and of the NariÃ±o AwÃ¡ people’s collective rights is not new; evidence of that are the following facts:
The social, cultural and organizational dynamic of the AwÃ¡ people was altered with the insurgent armed groups’ [guerrillas'] arrival at the end of the 1990s, when in their haste to impose their armed political project they have committed various violations of our political and territorial autonomy and against human rights. This situation became much more serious with the appearance of paramilitary groups and their actions in favor of economic interests.
It is important to highlight that the growing militarization of our territories in the development of the Democratic Security policy has also made the communities’ situation complex, since the illegal armed groups accuse them [the communities] of being the facilitators of the military’s entry into the territories, and because members of the Army commit human rights violations and IHL infractions, violations of ILO Convention 169, and the directives of the Ministry of Defense.
In the last 10 years, as a consequence of the armed conflict, there have been 5 massive displacements, continuous individual displacements into and out of our territory, cross-border migration, 4 massacres, approximately 200 murders, 50 affected by landmines, kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, accusations of helping armed groups, threats, forced recruitment, blockades of food and medicine, utilization of civilian facilities for military purposes, and pressure on civilians to serve as informants.
All of this has been the subject of permanent denunciation at the national and international level, to such an extent that in 2008 the Ombudsman’s Office [DefensorÃa del Pueblo] issued Defensorial Resolution 53 demonstrating the seriousness of the AwÃ¡ people’s situation and proposing a series of recommendations for the State to guarantee this people’s protection, but to date effective measures have not been taken.
Starting in 2008, paramilitary groups’ presence was reactivated in the region, the insurgency’s actions radicalized, and the state’s militarization increased, bringing as a consequence an increase in human rights violations and a deepening of the humanitarian crisis in all of the AwÃ¡ territory.
With regard to the acts that are the subject of this denunciation, we highlight:
Starting on February 1, the presence of the Army (Cabal [cavalry?] Group, “MÃ¡rtires de Puerres” Battalion of the 29th Brigade, part of the 3rd Division) was registered in the rural villages of Volteadero and Bravo in the TortugaÃ±a TelembÃ Reserve (Barbacoas municipality). They abusively entered people’s homes and, through various mistreatments, obligated members of the community to give information about the location of the FARC-EP guerrillas, exposing the community to a situation of powerlessness and fear.
On February 4, armed men with FARC insignia rounded up 20 people (men, women and children), who were tied up and led away to a stream called El Hojal, in the El Bravo community,Â and they were observed killing some people with knives. Acording to information from the community, these same men returned the next day for the children who remained in the houses, and we don’t know what became of them. Members of the communities inform us that this FARC action was taken in retaliation for soldiers having occupied the indigenous people’s houses, and because they offered collaboration [information about the guerrillas' activities and location].
According to information from the reservation’s communities, on February 5 at 4:00 in the afternoon there was combat between the guerrillas and the Army, during which the latter carried out a bombing between Bravo and the Sabaleta hill, generating great fear in the communities.
On February 6 at 5:00 PM, there was more combat between the Army and the FARC, which began again on the 7th. As a result of all of this, several families have displaced into the interior of the territory and towards Samaniego, Buenavista (Barbacoas), and Planadas TelembÃ, despite the presence of anti-personnel mines planted by the guerrillas along the different access roads. Meanwhile about 1,300 people are in a situation of confinement, suffering hunger and sickness with a serious impact on the population of children.
We demand that all armed groups respect the lives and rights of Colombia’s indigenous people and that they let us live in peace like before, that they don’t involve us in a war that is not ours and which we don’t support.
That the FARC Secretariat, the commanders of the 29th Front and the Mariscal Sucre column pronounce, before the national and international community, about their resonsibility for these crimes, that they respect the territorial and political autonomy of the AwÃ¡ people, that they stop mining our territories and that they stop involving indigenous communities in a war that does not belong to them.
That the FARC, if it is holding people, release them immediately and unconditionally.
That the Ministry of Interior and Justice take the measures necessary to clarify what happened as soon as possible.
That the national government, the state and all its institutions recognize theÂ vulnerability of the AwÃ¡ people as expressed in Defensorial Resolution 53 of June 5, 2008, and that they completely follow each one of its recommendations.
That the Presidency’s Office of Social Action and the Ministry of Interior implement an ethnic safeguard plan for the AwÃ¡ indigenous nation, respecting the right to prior consultation in accord with finding 004 of the Constitutional Court.
That the National Army, in the development of its operations, observe strict compliance with human rights and IHL norms, as well as the Defense Ministry’s directives with regard to intervention in indigenous territories.
We call on the United Nations, human rights organizations, social organizations, state institutions, international NGOs, oversight bodies and indigenous organizations to accompany us in the development of an INTEGRAL HUMANITARIAN MINGA [joining of forces] to verify what occurred, and to save the lives of our indigenous brothers at risk.
That the Inspector-General of the Nation [ProcuradurÃa] follow up with each institution to ensure that they are fulfilling the responsibilities that correspond to them.