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News > Latin America

U'wa Nation Sues Colombian State over Rights Abuses at IACHR

  • "Culture with principles has no price" reads the banner. | Photo: EFE

Published 19 December 2016

The U'wa have suffered the consequences of projects developed without prior consultation and militarization of their territories.

The U'wa Association, EarthRights International and Colombia’s human rights group Cajar presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging the Colombian state has international responsibility for the human rights violations committed against the U'wa Nation.

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For over 20 years, the U'wa people have suffered the consequences of projects developed without prior consultation, including hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation, tourism, mining, and militarization of their territories, declared the document, demanding economic reparation.

"This case is emblematic," said Juliana Bravo Valencia, coordinator of ERI’s Amazon program, "because it questions the legislation and policies of how consultation with Indigenous peoples is regulated in Colombia. It denounces the Colombian State's failure to comply with its international obligations for the protection of the right to ancestral territory and to the natural resources of the subsoil that Indigenous peoples have."

The document presents consistent arguments about Colombia’s responsibility for violating the rights enshrined in several articles of the American Convention and the American Declaration. These include rights such as the right to life, the integrity of the U'wa Nation, the benefits of culture, the right to ancestral territory, the right to political rights, the right to equality before the law, the right of the family, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to judicial protection and justice.

"This case is another opportunity for the Inter-American system to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples in Colombia from spiritual, cultural, environmental and social damages resulting from development projects implemented without prior consent in their territories," said Jomary Ortegon, a lawyer at Cajar.

The commission will take two decades of information into account when making a decision on the responsibility of the Colombian state for the violations of human rights against the U’wa.

“The brief is very important for the U’wa because it represents the struggle that we face in condemning the Colombian State for violations going on for years,” says Aura Tegria Christancho, an U’wa leader. “That is why we are requesting the adoption of the necessary measures to fully repair the enormous cultural, social, environmental, political and spiritual damage."

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