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UN: Massacres of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia Must Stop

FILE - People transport the coffins of two indigenous people killed in Tacueyo, southwest Colombia, Oct. 31, 2019.

The U.N. human rights office is lambasting the Colombian government for failing to stop massacres of indigenous peoples by criminal gangs.

The latest atrocity occurred Tuesday in Tacueyo in Northern Cauca in southwest Colombia. Criminal groups trying to enter indigenous ancestral lands shot and killed five indigenous people and severely wounded six others. Among the victims is a prominent human rights defender, Cristina Bautista.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says 106 human rights defenders and members of the Nasa community have been killed this year. The Nasa Indians have been defending their sacred land for decades against drug gangs, riot police and deforestation by developers of sugar plantations and tourist resorts.

Hurtado said the Nasa community has repeatedly raised concerns with Colombian authorities about threats to their safety, to no avail.

“The U.N. Human Rights Office stresses once again the urgent need for effective protection and preventive measures for indigenous peoples across the country, and particularly in the Northern Cauca region, in line with their right to land and their right to self-determination, as recognized by the 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” she said.

Hurtado said the harassment and violent attacks endured by indigenous human rights defenders for their advocacy has got to stop. She urged the government to establish a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation in the Oct. 29 killings in Northern Cauca. She said that is an essential starting point in breaking the cycle of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of such crimes.

The human rights spokeswoman said failure on the part of authorities to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice may have allowed the massacres of indigenous peoples to continue. She said those guilty of threats, harassment and killings targeting indigenous peoples must be punished.