Santiago de Cali, 8th April 2010
Eight miners were murdered by armed men travelling in two vehicles and a motor bike. The killings occurred in a place known as “Alto de Ovejas”, a rural zone in the municipality of Suárez, department of Cauca, southern Colombia. The place where the massacre occurred is the upper part of the Ovejas river. It can be reached by a one and a half hour journey on foot.
We, the undersigned organizations, have warned of the serious situation caused by the social and armed conflict which the municipalities in the Northwest of Cauca are experiencing, especially in the Municipalities of Suarez, Morales and Buenos Aires. We urgently demand an explanation from the National Government as to why, despite numerous demands for protection for communities in the zone and despite the large numbers of military and police contingents deployed in the areas, the perpetrators of this massacre were completely free to enter the territory, commit the crime and leave again with impunity.
A fact finding mission, composed of the Process of Black Communities, the Association of Indigenous Cabildos from the North of Cauca and the Association for Research and Social Action, NOMADESC, is in the zone in order to make more information available. Unfortunately, no international organization was able to accompany this commission. Because of this, we call upon you to briefly write to the Colombian state, demanding that it takes immediate preventative action and pays attention to the entire population in northwest Cauca. At the same time, we call on the United Nations system to carry out a fact finding visit to the zone as fast as possible. For our part, we will make the information widely available as soon as the work of the fact finding mission has completed its work in the territory.
All of you remember the numerous denunciations which the afrodescendant, peasant farmer and indigenous communities, together with human rights organizations, have made to the national and international community concerning the barbarity which is being imposed on the zone and the dispossession which the ancestral communities living in the territory have been subjected to. Legal proceedings are currently underway against those responsible, in deed and through neglect, for the crimes committed. There is also an investigation underway concerning the responsibility of the multinationals Unión Fenosa, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Smurfit Kappa Cartón de Colombia and Cosigo Resources. However, despite the enormous efforts which communities have made to ensure preventative and protective measures are implemented, the inhabitants of the zone are still in imminent danger, and the level of impunity is 100%.
ACTIONS TO PROTECT THE TERRITORY
1.- 5th November 2009 Hearing about the Situation of the Afrocolombian, Indigenous and Peasant Communities in the North of Cauca before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States in Washington: During the hearing evidence of the serious situation, vulnerability and threats against the communities, miners, peasants and indigenous people was presented. As such, the ongoing violation of the free and informed Consulta Previa (Prior Consultation) was denounced, as was the violation of the application of environmental management plans; Law 70, indigenous legislation and the non-fulfilment of the Constitutional Court’s directives 004 and 005. During the hearing, demands were made that representatives of the Colombian government must undertake immediate preventative and protective actions for the communities in the zone. Result: the government has still not granted the protective mechanisms announced in front of the Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the Organization of American States.
2.- 10th December 2009, Public Hearing in Defence of Territory, Culture and Dignity of the Indigenous, Afrodescendant, and Peasant Communities of the Northwest of Cauca: In the Hearing Convened by the Human Rights Commission of the Senate of the Republic, at the petition of the communities and the Association NOMADESC, a mapping of the conflict was carried out. Specific cases of human rights violations were detailed, and the findings of the investigations into who may be responsible for the crimes committed were presented. The communities and human rights organizations warned of the presence of armed actors in the zone, namely the self named Águilas Negras [Black Eagles] who seem to be responsible for a wave of threats which was unleashed in the month of October 2009. Additionally, demands were made to revise the legislation which benefits multinationals present in the zone at the expense of the rights of the communities. Result: proceedings are currently underway to request information about the multinationals which have concessions in the zone [and] armed actors, information about the results of the investigations for crimes which have occurred in the zone, and about high level meetings with the state institutions.
3.- 17th January 2010 Fact Finding Mission of Acción Permanente por la Paz[ Permanent Action for Peace]: A mission with 10 delegates from the United States travelled to the zone and visited the communities of Suarez, including the afrodescendant communities which are dedicated to artisanal mining in the area of La Toma as well as the Indigenous communities of Cerro Tijeras. This mission heard from the affected population. Result: An intervention in front of the national government demanding protection for the communities and territories affected by serious crimes against humanity.
4.- 27th January 2010 Delegation from the Spanish State, Fact Finding Mission of the human rights situation in Colombia: This mission did not travel to the territory but held meetings with relevant social sectors in the City of Santiago de Cali. In these meetings participants in the mission had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of the social and armed conflict which people in the territory are experiencing, and the vulnerability which the indigenous, afrodescendant and peasant communities who live in the zone are suffering. Result: The delegation from the Spanish State made a public declaration in which they presented their conclusions and proposals concerning the situation. 
5.- [1st – 12th February 2010] Visit of an independent expert from the United Nations on the Question of Minorities, Commissioned by the United Nations Minorities section, GAY McDOUGALL: visited the district of la Toma in the Municipality of Suarez, covering the whole of the territory, and visited the mines where she heard first hand the denunciations of the afrodescendant communities which live in the zone, through the testimonies of leaders of the community, the representatives of the Communitarian Councils and the Process of Black Communities (PCN). Ms McDOUGALL committed to undertake follow up actions about the serious human rights violations and to demand that the Colombian government complies with national and international human rights law. The independent expert carried out this visit in the company of Mr. DANIEL ATCHEBRO, Coordinator in Cali of the Colombian Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, together with other delegates the organization. Result: At the end of her visit, the independent expert issued a declaration and warned that the authorities needed to put a lot of work into regaining the confidence of these people and ordered the Ministry of Defence to protect these communities.
These latest killings confirm, yet again, that the national government and the protective bodies completely lack the POLITICAL WILL to comply with national and international human rights law. It is extremely worrying that despite these pronouncements from the international community, the judicial processes, the denunciations, Hearings, demands and requests, etc, that the Colombian state still does not guarantee the lives of the inhabitants of the communities.
Because of this, we demand once again that the National Government gives an immediate response to the communities in the vicinity of where human rights are repeatedly violated, especially in relation to the sad deeds which resulted in the murder of 8 miners.
ASOCIACION PARA LA INVESTIGACION Y ACCION SOCIAL NOMADESC [Association for Investigation and Social Action NOMADESC)
PROCESO DE COMUNIDADES NEGRAS PCN [Process of Black Communities, PCN]
ASOCIACION DE CABILDOS INDIGENAS DEL NORTE DEL CAUCA ACIN [Association of Indigenous Cabildos from North Cauca, ACIN]
CONCEJO COMUNITARIO LA TOMA [Comunitarian Council of La Toma]
COORPORACION SERVICIOS PROFESIONALES COMUNITARIOS SEMBRAR [Corporation of Professional Comunitarian Services SEMBRAR]
ASOCIACION DE MUJERES MUNICIPALES DE LA BALSA [Association of Women from the Municipality of La Balsa]
ASOCIACIÓN ECATE [Assocation ECATE]
RED DE HERMANDAD Y SOLIDARIDAD CON COLOMBIA REDHER [Fraternal and Solidarity Network with Colombia, REHER ]
CAMPAÑA PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR [Campaign Never to Forget]
RECOMMENDED ACTION/ ACCIÓN SOLICITADA
Favor dirigir comunicaciones a / Please send letters to:
Send messages demanding that the Colombian state authorities:
a) ensure the well-being of the investigation commission currently visiting the scene of the murders at “Alto de Ovejas” in the municipality of Suárez and
b) take immediate preventative action to protect the entire population in northwest Cauca.
ALVARO URIBE VELEZ
Presidente de la República
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26 Palacio de Nariño Bogotá
Vicepresidente de la República
Carrera 8 No.7-57 Bogotá D.C.
General FREDY PADILLA
Ministro de la Defensa (E)
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
FABIO VALENCIA COSSIO
Ministro del Interior y de Justicia
Avenida El dorado con carrera 52 CAN Bogotá D.C.
GUILLERMO MENDOZA DIAGO
Fiscal General de la Nación
Diagonal 22B No. 52-01 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 570 20 00
WOLMAR ANTONIO PEREZ ORTIZ
Defensor del Pueblo
Calle 55 No. 10 – 32 Bogotá D.C.
Fax. 640 04 91
Procurador General de la Nación
Cra. 5 No.15 – 80F Bogotá D.C.
Please send copies of your letters to:
CAMPAÑA PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR
PROCESO DE COMUNIDADES NEGRAS
Colombia Solidarity Campaign adds:
1. Send messages to your local Colombian Embassy, in the UK email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
2. More information:
A short video report showing community opposition to open pit gold extraction at Suarez Las Multinacionales todo lo quieren llevar
And a workers protest in Bogotá Caravana contra las multinacionales y grupos economicos nacionales http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0o-LjkjRik&feature=related