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Colombia: UN expert says killings of Nasa indigenous human rights defenders, including children, must stop immediately

GENEVA (24 March 2022) - Killings, attacks and threats against indigenous human rights defenders working to defend their territory must be prevented and effectively investigated by the Colombian authorities, a UN human rights expert said today. 

"It is extremely worrying and shocking that children are direct victims of these attacks,” UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said. 

“A 14-year-old child human rights defender was killed, and another was forcibly abducted. We have received reports of an increasing number of children and adolescents being recruited by non-State armed groups, a significant percentage of whom are girls.”  

In recent months, threats and attacks against the Nasa indigenous peoples, their leaders, and members of the indigenous guard have increased. On 24 January 2022, Mr. José Albeiro Camayo Güetio was killed in the presence of his 13-year-old son, allegedly by members of a non-State armed group seeking to exercise control of the Las Delicias indigenous community in the municipality of Buenos Aires, Cauca. 

Only 10 days prior, on 14 January 2022, 14-year-old Breiner David Cucuñame López, and Mr. Guillermo Chicame Ipia, were killed, allegedly by members of the same group, while they were protecting and defending Nasa territory with the community’s indigenous guard. On 21 November 2021, Marcos Fidel Camayo Güetio, who had been a traditional authority in the community, was also killed. 

The Special Rapporteur said increased threats against human rights defenders in Colombia, including those protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, the environment, and the implementation of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement, was having a chilling effect on civil society and the legitimate work of human rights defenders. 

"The government has to effectively investigate these cases, provide remedies to the victims, and dismantle groups generating this violence that seek to control the territory of the Nasa people. They must also adopt prevention and protection measures for the communities and support the strengthening of the Nasa people's own self-protection strategies and organisation," Lawlor said. 

The expert is in contact with the Colombian authorities on the matter.


The expert's call was endorsed by: Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child

Ms. Mary Lawlor was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders by the Human Rights Council in May 2020. Ms. Lawlor is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), School of Business, Trinity College Dublin. She has worked extensively with and on the situation of human rights defenders. In 2001 she founded Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation focused on the protection of human rights defenders at risk. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, Ms. Lawlor represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously the Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, became a Board member in 1975 and was elected Chair from 1983 to 1987. She has a BA in Philosophy and postgraduate degrees in Montessori Teaching and Personnel Management.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

For more information and media requests, please contact Allison Thomas-McPhee (allison.thomas-mcphee@un.org or ohchr-defenders@un.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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