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  • The soldiers plead guilty to raping the girl on Thursday.

    The soldiers plead guilty to raping the girl on Thursday. | Photo: AFP

Published 27 June 2020
Opinion

The incident happened last Sunday, less than a week after Colombia’s Congress approved a controversial bill allowing life imprisonment for child rapists.

The rape of a 13-year-old Indigenous girl in Colombia by at least seven military soldiers has shocked several sectors of the country and mobilized human rights organizations, who called for justice.

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The incident happened last Sunday, less than a week after Colombia’s Congress approved a controversial bill allowing life imprisonment for child rapists.

The soldiers plead guilty to raping the girl on Thursday amid broadly felt horror over the incident in Pueblo Rico, a town in the Risaralda province.

The heartbreaking event provoked tensions between the military and native Colombians, who demanded the soldiers be surrendered to Indigenous authorities and tried under indigenous law before being tried under common criminal law.

"The regrettable fact that what is in the news today constitutes a serious violation of the rights of the minor, and collectively victimizes her family, the Embera Katío people and the indigenous peoples of the country, and adds to a long list of atrocious acts on the part of the military that, by action or omission, constitutes a risk factor instead of a guarantee of security for the Indigenous peoples and nations," said in a statement the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).

"It’s no exception. That’s the reality of many of the Indigenous girls," Armando Valbuena, ONIC spokesman, told to the BBC.

Valbuena said that children from communities such as the Embera, Wayúu and Afro-Colombian communities in rural areas of the country suffer not only from harassment by soldiers, but also by irregular armed groups and "paramilitary groups, which continue to grow."

The ONIC also denounced that the rape of the girl child occurs “in the context of the genocide we find ourselves in, constitutes a strategy of intimidation and division at the community level with which they seek to undermine our autonomy.”

For its part, the National Army refused to cooperate with the Indigenous authorities and jailed the soldiers at a military compound on Thursday after closing a plea deal with the Prosecutor General’s Office in record time.

The military and Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa have denied that the security forces, unlike guerrilla and paramilitary groups, used sexual violence systematically.

However, for different human rights defenders, the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Colombian armed conflict is an appalling reality that power groups and the state have always tried to hide. 

"The sexual abuse of the minor from the Embera Chami community was aberrant and unacceptable," Martha Lucia Ramirez, vice president of the Council for Women’s Equity in Colombia, said.

"We request the Prosecutor’s Office to expedite the investigative process so that justice may be done. This is a case that deserves social condemnation; we must act swiftly and consistently to defend the rights of children, adolescents and women. It’s time for life imprisonment," she asked.

Meanwhile, this fact, which has shocked the entire country, adds to the massive spying on journalists and human rights defenders as well as the unstoppable murder of Indigenous leaders.

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