Letter of Concern regarding Plight of Indigenous Communities in Colombia
(2012-06-06) Larry Cox, acting director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, sent a letter today on behalf on the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights expressing concern for the the humanitarian plight of the indigenous communities of Cerro Tijeras and Honduras Indigenous Reservations in Colombia. Concerned individuals are encouraged to write similar letters as seen below to the President of Colombia, The Honorable Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and to the Colombian Ambassador to the United States of America, The Honorable Gabriel Silva.
The Honorable Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
President of Colombia
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño
Sent Via Fax: 57-1-566-2071
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center), I write to you deeply concerned about the humanitarian plight of the indigenous communities of Cerro Tijeras and Honduras Indigenous Reservations. The Association for Research and Social Action (NOMADESC), the Honduras Indigenous Council, the Cerro Tijeras Indigenous Council, and the Campaign Proibido Olviadar have informed us that the population continues to be caught in the crossfire since violence erupted in the region on June 2, 2012.
According to information from the communities, since the early hours of June 2, 2012, there has been intense fighting between the National Army and the guerrilla FARC-EP. The fighting is directly affecting the indigenous communities living in the villages of Galilea, Florida, Uníon Risaralda, Honduras Reservation, Municipality of Morales and the Township of Matecaña, La Carmelita, Agua Blanca, Cerro Tijeras Reservation, Municipality of Suarez, and the area surrounding the Inguito River.
The indigenous communities have had to leave their homes amid the barrage of machine gun fire and bombings to seek refuge in the chapel and school, with the aim of protecting their physical well-being. Thus far, 320 people are reported to be in the Matecaña School. From 11:00 pm on June 4, 2012 until the early hours of June 5, there was continued shooting, bombing, and helicopter flights over the ancestral lands of the indigenous communities of Cerro Tijeras and Honduras in the municipalities of Morales and Suarez Cauca.
The humanitarian situation is critical: food supplies are exhausted and there is no medicine to address the communities’ health problems. In the areas of high population concentration, Matecaña, Municipality of Suarez, and Galilee, Municipality of Morales, there are pregnant women, elderly people, and children. On the night of June 3, amid the confrontation, an indigenous woman gave birth to her baby and could not be moved to a safer place. We were informed that property and several homes have been affected by the confrontation.
Indigenous authorities have requested that the National Army of Colombia and the guerilla FARC-EP withdraw immediately, respect the ancestral territory of the indigenous, afro-descendant, and peasant communities in the region, and cease putting at risk the physical and psychological well-being and the autonomy of the communities.
The RFK Center has been working with the Councils of the region on initiatives linked to the right to education and visited the area in September 2011. We support the Councils in their request for respect for their autonomy, their self-determination, and their desire to stay on their ancestral lands in the municipalities of Morales and Suarez Cauca.
We urge the Colombian government to ensure respect for the right to life and to the physical well-being of the communities. Additionally we call on the Colombian government to respect the implementation of national and international standards of human rights and international humanitarian law.
We were informed that there is no governmental presence in the area that is not military personnel. Thus, we respectfully recommend the immediate creation of a human rights commission that includes the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office, and the National Red Cross to verify the human rights and humanitarian situation in the territory.
The RFK Center is an international human rights organization that works to advance human rights around the world. The RFK Partners for Human Rights works directly with human rights defenders through strategic partnerships to assist them in reaching legislators, diplomats, international institutions, and corporations to address human rights violations and advocate for long-term, systemic change. It is dedicated to strengthening the efforts of its partners to combat human rights violations worldwide and realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a “more just and peaceful world.” The RFK Center supports the work of 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate, Berenice Celeyta, President of NOMADESC accompanying the indigenous and afro-descendents communities of Suarez and Morales, Cali, Colombia.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. Please do not hesitate to contact the RFK Center’s Advocacy Director, Marselha Gonçalves Margerin, by email at
or by telephone at (202) 463-7575 x224.
Acting Director, RFK Partners for Human Rights
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights
CC: The Honorable Gabriel Silva, Colombian Ambassador to the United States of America