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One indigenous person murdered every 72 hours in Colombia

18 June 2009

With 1,300 indigenous Colombians having been killed in the last seven years as a result of the ongoing conflict, at the end of May, the country’s indigenous leaders announced plans to form a 100,000-strong "national indigenous police force". This is aimed at combating what leaders describe as the "increasing trend towards genocide and extermination.”

Colombia's 1.3 million indigenous people are consistently caught in the crossfire between warring parties as the protracted conflict continues to encroach on their territories. In the face of official indifference regarding their situation, they have now decided they need to take proactive measures to protect themselves.

Luis Fernando Arias, leader of the Colombian Indigenous Organization said that the situation equates to “an indigenous person being murdered every 72 hours in Colombia."

Indigenous leaders have assigned blame to all "armed parties" in Colombia which includes the army, paramilitary groups and the FARC and ELN guerrillas.

The impact of violence on Colombia's indigenous people has long been the concern of local and international human rights organizations. These include the United Nations and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights which, over the past decade have produced a number of reports condemning rights abuses against indigenous and afro-descendant populations in the country.

According to Colombia's Office of Human Rights and Displacement (Consultoria para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento) an estimated 1.3 million indigenous people make up 3.4 percent of the country’s 44 million national population, yet represent a disproportional 16 percent of the nearly 3 million people who have been internally displaced by the war.

Colombia's indigenous populations are located mainly in the south-eastern part of the country, as well as in the southern region of the Amazon and in the northern Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. All of these areas now experience high levels of armed conflict and territorial dispossession.

The organization Cumbre Continental Indígena has proposed the demilitarization of indigenous territories as one way of removing indigenous Colombians from the ongoing conflict in their country.