Colombia: UN expert voices outrage after mass killing of indigenous people

A group of displaced Awá people in Nariño department, Colombia

31 August 2009 – A United Nations human rights expert today condemned the massacre of 12 indigenous people, including seven children, in southern Colombia and voiced concern about an apparent wave of deadly attacks this year against indigenous peoples in that region of the South American country.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a house in an indigenous reservation in Colombia’s Nariño department early last Tuesday. The victims, from the ethnic Awá group, included seven children and some of their parents. At least three others were injured.

James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, issued a statement in Geneva expressing his outrage about the attacks.

“I roundly condemn these barbaric acts and observe with pain and extreme concern the consequences of this new wave of assassinations against the indigenous peoples of the Nariño department,” he said, voicing his solidarity with the Awá people.

Mr. Anaya said at least 38 Awá have been killed in Colombia so far this year and urged the country’s authorities to step up their efforts to protect the rights of the indigenous group.

“The effective guarantee of human rights of indigenous peoples is deeply tied to their collective right to live in peace and security as distinct peoples and to not be subjected to any act of violence.”

Mr. Anaya urged authorities to investigate the killings thoroughly and to punish those found responsible.

Like other UN rapporteurs, Mr. Anaya reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity.


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