The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) demanded the Tribunal of Bogota to halt a proposed reform bill on the Law of Land and to “protect the fundamental right to territory and previous consultation for indigenous people.”
“The land is not for sale, it’s fought for and defended,” chanted demonstrators during a protest in front of the tribunal on Monday.
Lawmakers are trying to reform the Law 160 of 1994, effectively legalizing tenure for lands that the campesino, indigenous and Afro-Colombian organizations claim were seized by large landowners in their territories.
“This law aims to strengthen agricultural industries and business people, and doesn’t guarantee our right to access and redistribution of land in our country,” Luis Fernando Arias, ONCI’s counselor, told TeleSUR in an interview.
The bill was presented at the Congress on July 20 and has faced strong resistance from grassroots organizations that demand respect for consultations, guaranteed by international law, and a better land redistribution scheme.
“We’re calling on the national government and the Congress for the immediate backtrack of this bill because it threatens the rights to territory and previous consultation of the ethnic peoples of Colombia,” continued Arias.
In a statement published on Monday, the ONIC and other indigenous, campesino and human rights organizations declared they were informed of the bill beforehand and were promised a key-role in its development, but said they were later ignored “violating the corresponding process, silencing the voice of the indigenous peoples, threatening fundamental rights and failing to comply with human rights treaties.”
“The Ethnic Peoples are not integrated by second-class citizens,” reads the statement. “The law recognizes and protects our right to influence in the decisions that affect our lives through instruments such as the previous consultation. Mine exploitation projects… bring little profitability for the nation and almost none for the regions and communities. Every ‘development’ project must be planned with the communities taking into account the ancestral knowledge we own, our productive professions, worldview, capacities, organization and wisdom that have guaranteed our existence for more than 500 years.”
The complaint was filed by social organizations and directed at the conservative president Ivan Duque, the Congress, the National Agency for Lands and the interior and agricultural ministries.