[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people James Anaya [official website] on Thursday urged [press release, in Spanish] the government of Colombia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to advance its negotiations with indigenous authorities in northern Cauca regarding the military presence in the area, as well as other pressing issues. Anaya called for a good faith dialogue to find solutions in compliance with international human rights standards, noting that the indigenous people have the right to self-determination [UN News Centre report] and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [text, PDF]. Anaya added that the Colombian government has the obligation to respect such rights and that it must consult with the indigenous authorities before it establishes military presence in their territories. The dialogue started when leaders of the Nasa tribe, in northern part of Cauca, attempted to expel governmental forces and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [BBC backgrounder] from their territories. There were reports of violence in the region against indigenous people and property committed by the forces.
Colombia has been facing armed conflict for decades without any sight of resolution. In June the country’s Congress approved [JURIST report] a new law to provide a “Legal Framework for Peace” by a vote of 63-3. It is expected that the proposed law, backed by President Juan Manuel Santos [official website, in Spanish], will assist the government in engaging in peace negotiations with Leftist rebel groups including FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) [BBC backgrounders] and stop the violence in the country. In December the representative to Colombia for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Christian Salazar called [JURIST report] for a peaceful solution to the country’s ongoing violence. In June of last year President Santos signed legislation to compensate victims of the country’s armed conflict after the Colombian senate passed [JURIST reports] it a month earlier. Multinational corporations have also been involved in the country’s violence. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] revived a wrongful death lawsuit [JURIST report] brought against Drummond Company [corporate website] for hiring Colombian paramilitaries to assassinate plaintiffs’ fathers. In 2010 victims of paramilitary violence filed suit [JURIST report] against Chiquita Brand International [corporate website] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] for funding a right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia that was accused of mass killings during the Colombia guerrilla warfare movement.