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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From the Indigenous Council OREWA in Choco

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

In spite of what the Armed Forces high command publicly states to the media, that the units under its command strictly comply with human rights standards, the Council of Indigenous Authorities, of the Embera Association of Indigenous Town Councils, Wounaan, Katío, Chamí, and Tule, of the Department of El Chocó OREWA, again denounces to international and national public opinion the actions that violate human rights by members of the Colombian army, against the indigenous peoples who live in the Department of El Chocó.

  1. Last July 3, members of an army patrol commanded by Sargent Hernández, who were driving through the sector 18 in a truck, on the road that goes from Quibdó to Medellín, attacked and beat up compañero Ricardo Tequia, of community 90. He was in that place to fish for food; the patrol surrounded him, called him a guerrillero, and threatened to kill him if he did not tell them how many guerrilleros there were in the indigenous communities. This compañero was saved because other community members realized what was happening and prevented the soldiers from continuing to attack him.

  1. On July 20 a group of soldiers under Sargent Hernández’s command shot at the family of the compañero Crisanto Cheché Campo, Amelia Estevez Viucay and the child Wilson Tequia Tequia, who had gone up to the mountain from community 18 to look for food. Even though the aforementioned informed the soldiers where they were going, the army shot at them.

As a consequence of this the compañera Amelia Estevez Vitucay is badly bruised because in order to avoid the shots she threw herself down among some rocks. The same thing happened to the child Wilson Tequia Tequia, who was lost for several hours. Therefore, the community decided to take over the highway and blockade it until such time as the child appeared and the army stopped treating them without respect.
  1. Facing the indigenous people’s demands, the Major of the army, named Cardoso, who remains in command of the troop of the Manosalva Flores batallion that controls the highway in the spot where the antennas of Telecom are, threatened the community with shooting at them if they did not take down the blockade and move away from that place.

  1. The communities dismantled the blockade when the child appeared and the army major stopped threatening them. The army has justified its attitude by saying that in that moment the guerrilleros were moving through that area and the community was hiding them. As proof they say that they found insurgents’ camouflage clothing.

When the commmunity went to verify what the army had said, what they found was the clothing and shoes of the child Wilson Tequia who, when he was shot at, fled, leaving it behind.
  1. In addition to these facts, the army has restricted the movements of these communities, because of the mining prospecting that the Cordillera Mining Explorations Company Inc. is doing, which has damaged their plantings and use of the forest.

  1. We also let it be known that the communities of the highway are in a Permanent Assembly, waiting for a commission to verify these facts and the fulfillment of the accords to which the federal government agreed.

In order to make visible the situation in which the indigenous communities of the Quibdó highway are living our association is convening to ensure that those in control and international humanitarian aid organizations agree to a fact-finding mission of verification.
We ask:
That the national and departmental governments fulfill the accords agreed to in June of last year as a result of the nonviolent demonstration we had, especially naming teachers for our communities, paying attention to the health of our communities, the amplification and constitution of the safeguards that are lacking, and respecting human rights.
That government agencies, the Public Ministry, carry out the necessary investigations of who is committing these violations and offer protection of our lives, because we believe that these signs and actions place us at risk, because we are in between the armed participants on opposite sides.
That the actions of the police be investigated, in line with international humanitarian law and the 2006 Directive 16 of the Ministry of Defense.
That a commission be established to verify the violation of our rights and the violations to our territory as a result of the prospecting being carried out by the Cordillera Mining Exploration Company Inc.
We demand that all armed participants respect our territory and not use it as a place for confrontation.

Council of Authorities
Quibdó, July 23, 2008

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