Amnesty urges Colombia to prioritize land rights of indigenous, Afro-descendant peoples

Amnesty urges Colombia to prioritize land rights of indigenous, Afro-descendant peoples

The Colombian government should prioritize the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities above corporate interests, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said in a report [text, PDF] Wednesday. According to AI, the armed conflict in the country has caused members of these communities and peasant farmers to lose their lands, resulting in forced displacement and land misappropriation. The indigenous and Afro-descendant communities have reportedly been unable to reclaim the lands taken from them by force because of corporate mining interests in those areas. AI says many of these interests have been protected by paramilitaries that have committed human rights violations, including murder:

Some of those who have been forced to flee are victims of the conflict who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others have been targeted as part of a deliberate policy to remove people from areas rich in natural resources. For those willing to commit human rights abuses, forcibly removing the inhabitants and snatching their land open up the possibility of large profits. The temptation is all the greater given that very few of those suspected of responsibility for these crimes have been brought to justice.

In addition to mining corporations illegally taking the land, AI says these communities are also dealing with the negative environmental impact of mining, which further marginalizes their ability to economically recover and hampers land recovery efforts.

The Victims and Land Restitution Law [Law 1448, text, in Spanish] was passed in 2011 to assist in restoring the land rights of the indigenous and Afro-descendant Colombian peoples. Even then AI expressed concern [JURIST report] that those trying to restore land rights were going to meet violent resistance and economic hardships in doing so because of the ongoing armed conflict. In September the Members of the guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government reached [JURIST report] a preliminary peace agreement to not only began disarming but to also investigate and prosecute human rights violations.