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Haiti unrest - Colombia: Northern Cauca indigenous killings

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado

Location: Geneva
Date: 1 November 2019
(1) Haiti unrest
(2) Colombia: Northern Cauca indigenous killings

(1) Haiti unrest

We are deeply concerned about the protracted crisis in Haiti, and its impact on the ability of Haitians to access their basic rights to healthcare, food, education and other needs.

At least 42 people have died and 86 have been injured as tensions have escalated since the latest round of protests began on 15 September, according to information verified by our office. The vast majority suffered gunshot wounds. Reports indicate that security forces were responsible for 19 of the deaths while the rest were killed by armed individuals or unknown perpetrators. Among those killed was at least one journalist. Nine other journalists were injured and many have reportedly been threatened. We urge all actors to refrain from targeting journalists and respect the freedom of the media to report on the situation.

Since the beginning of the school year in September, most children across Haiti have been unable to go to school. Roadblocks and violence have meant that people, particularly in regions outside the capital, have had serious difficulty accessing food, drinking water, medicine and fuel. The health sector has been hit particularly hard, with shortages of electricity, fuel, supplies, and the inability of many medical personnel to reach their places of work. We are also concerned about the impact that the closure of judicial institutions and other public institutions is having in the country, especially on vulnerable groups. For example, the alarmingly high number of detainees in prolonged pre-trial detention has further increased due to the closure of many local courts for security reasons.

We urge all parties to avoid hampering the functioning of hospitals and to facilitate access to healthcare, as well as the delivery, including through humanitarian channels, of food and medicine for individuals in prisons, orphanages and other vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities.

We welcome the launching of investigations by the General Inspectorate of the Haitian National Police into allegations of human rights violations by police and stress the need for investigations to be thorough, transparent and independent, with a view to ensuring accountability, justice and truth for victims and their families – including through judicial action.

It is crucial that all actors take measures to support and advance peaceful solutions to the many grievances that have led Haitians to take to the streets repeatedly over the past 16 months. We stand ready to support attempts at meaningful and inclusive resolution to the current situation and alleviate the suffering of the people of Haiti.

(2) Colombia: Northern Cauca Indigenous killings

Earlier this week, we signed a Host Country Agreement with Colombia, which will allow us to remain and operate in the country with our full mandate – including technical cooperation and human rights monitoring and reporting – for a further three years. Over the last 22 years, our Office in Colombia has worked very closely with the Government and various actors, including civil society, on the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as in supporting implementation of the Peace Agreement signed between the Government and the FARC.

One key focus of our Office in Colombia has been on the rights – individual and collective – of indigenous peoples, including their rights to self-determination and to land. Indigenous human rights defenders in particular have long been harassed and subjected to violent attacks for their advocacy.

On Tuesday 29 October, five indigenous people from the Nasa community were shot dead and six others were severely injured by gunfire while trying to prevent criminal groups from entering their territory. Among them was Cristina Bautista, a Nasa traditional authority (or ‘Neehwesx’). She was also a former UN Human Rights Office indigenous fellow in 2017 and the recipient of a 2019 grant from the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. She was an inspirational woman deeply dedicated to defending the human rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia.

The massacre took place in Tacueyó in Northern Cauca, in the southwest of the country – a region that has increasingly been plagued by violence, mainly perpetrated by criminal groups against indigenous peoples who try to prevent them from entering and operating in their ancestral territories.

So far this year, our Office in Colombia has documented 52 killings in the Nasa territory in Northern Cauca region. Of these 52 individuals, 11 were human rights defenders. In addition, members of the Nasa community have received 74 death threats and nine have been physically attacked. In total, our office in Colombia has received reports of 106 killings of human rights defenders so far in 2019.

The Nasa community has repeatedly raised the alarm with the authorities about threats to their safety. Despite efforts by successive Colombian Governments, indigenous peoples continue to face great risks, especially religious or community leaders like Cristina Bautista.

The UN 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 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We call on the authorities to establish a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the 29 October killings in Northern Cauca, including into possible failures on the part of the authorities that may have allowed the massacre to happen. We also urge the authorities to break the cycle of impunity relating to threats, harassment and killings targeting indigenous peoples. We urge the Government to respond to this dramatic situation in a comprehensive and consultative manner, and not simply through increased military presence.

We remind the Government that any preventive and protection measures taken which affect indigenous peoples should be agreed with their own authorities, in full accordance with their traditions and customary practices, autonomy and jurisdiction.


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