lunes, agosto 16, 2010

Act Now to Stop the Eviction of Afro-Colombians from Their Ancestral Lands in La Toma


Act Now to Stop the Eviction of Afro-Colombians from Their Ancestral Lands in La Toma



The U.S. Network in Solidarity with Afro-Colombian Grassroots Communities (NASGACC) urges you to take action to prevent the eviction of Afro-Colombians from their ancestral territories in La Toma (Cauca). These communities’ ancestors established themselves in northern Cauca from the time they were forcibly enslaved and brought to Colombia in 1636. The descendants of these slaves have since carved out a living through artisanal gold mining and basic agricultural projects. Displacing these afrodescendants from their lands is not only a violation of their territorial and human rights but also an act that would lead to their impoverishment and devastation of their traditional culture.

The Afro-Colombian Community Council of La Toma was unofficially informed that they will be evicted from their ancestral territories on August 18th. As it stands the eviction will take place with the Colombian government and regional authorities not keeping its promises (see below) to the leaders of these communities. Late 2009, Colombia agreed before the Inter-America Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) that it would review the thirty-five mining permits it granted to third parties without the previous consent and consultation of the La Toma Community Council. The Regional Corporation of Cauca, the environmental authority for Cauca Department, stated that they would revoke environmental permits. Neither has taken place and no concrete actions were taken to respect the rights of Afrodescendant artisanal miners. While the Community Council has taken legal action to protect their rights, it has yet to receive a response from the authorities.

NASGACC is also concerned about the continued death threats against Afro-Colombian community council members and the human rights defenders that support them. Since April, a massacre of eight miners took place and others including Alex Quintero and Alex Gonzales. In recent weeks more killings of miners have taken place. These killings believed to be committed by paramilitaries that favor the displacement of local residents from the areas where the gold mines are situated follow a series of threats that were sent to community members, non-governmental organizations and the international group WOLA. While the government was scheduled to come up with a plan to protect La Toma community members by July 26th, it did not reveal a plan but rather put in place delay tactics to shirk responsibility further endangering the lives of civilians at risk of harm by paramilitaries.

We encourage you to contact your Member of Congress:

§ Urge him/her to take action to protect the territorial and human rights of Afro-Colombians in La Toma (Cauca). The eviction of Afrodescendants from La Toma should be halted and Colombian officials must implement all the steps they agreed to take at the December 2009 meeting. Your representative should contact the US State Department and recommend that they do not certify that the human rights conditions regarding aid to Colombia are being met. Such aid should not be certified until the threats and murders of Afro-Colombians in northern Cauca are investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

§ Ask him/her to co-sponsor House Resolution 1224 on Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and Women IDPs.

We also encourage you to reach out to the following persons in the State Department:

Steve Moody, Foreign Affairs Officer - Human Rights and Labor, Asia and Western Hemisphere Affairs, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tel: (202) 647-8301 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 647-8301 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 647-8301 end_of_the_skype_highlighting to express the same concerns and ask him to contact also the Colombian government.

Susan Sanford, Colombia Desk Officer, Andean Affairs Office, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (Tel: 202-647-3142)

-State officials should take action to guarantee the safety of Afro-Colombians at risk of harm in Cauca. They should call upon the Colombian authorities to halt the eviction of the community of La Toma, review the thirty five mining titles rejected by the community and the environmental licenses granted to third parties. State ought to ask the Colombian authorities to implement Order 005 on Afro-Colombians of which northern Cauca is an emblematic community and encourage them to dialogue with the Community Councils’ elected leaders on how best to implement this order in their community. Further, State should ask Colombia about the status of the investigation into the recent murders of Afro-Colombian leaders and threats made against the community councils in northern Cauca.

-State must ask the incoming Juan Manuel Santos Administration to take bold steps to dismantle the operational (military, economic and social) structures of the paramilitary groups in Cauca.

-State should be asked not to certify that military assistance is meeting the required human rights conditions.

Finally:

Write/email/call your local media (print and broadcast) and ask that they do more to cover the human rights abuses committed against Afro-Colombian communities. Please do the same with national media outlets by writing to their editors.

We encourage you to circulate urgent action to others. Please send copies of email or letter correspondence with US officials to Charo Mina Rojas, NASGACC afro_colombians@afrocolombians.com, charo@io.com and Gimena Sanchez, WOLA at gsanchez@wola.org

Find recent background information: http://bit.ly/bOwM0t

Add yourself to the Facebook Cause on La Toma: http://www.causes.com/causes/328750

Please tweet this urgent action: http://news.afrocolombians.com/news/



In December 2009, Colombian authorities met with Afro-Colombian leaders and agreed to do as follows:



Protection:

1) Leaders who are under threat that are currently outside of the areas will be given temporary relocation assistance. This assistance will be given the week of December 21st.

2) Colombian authorities will conduct a security risk analysis so that these leaders can return to the area (Cauca).

3) Authorities will be looking out for other requests regarding security involving other members and their families of these areas.

4) The community leaders requested that the Colombian authorities provide relocation assistance for the office of PCN that is currently situated in La Balsa de Santander de Quilichao. The authorities agreed to consider this request in January so that PCN can continue to work in this area of the country.

5) Authorities will put into place protocols for how they should respond to future emergencies concerning the physical security of leaders.



Persons responsible on the part of the authorities for carrying out the above: Diana Botero-PPDDH and Flor Romero of the Protection Unit of the Ministry of Justice.



Mining and Environment Titles:



1) The organizations will send the listing of land titles that violate the previous consultation process and law 70 of the black communities to the Ministry of Mines and Energy so that this Ministry can review them and respond in terms of whether or not such titles should be suspended and whether or not new titles need to be granted to the communities in question.

2) At minimum, the Ministry of the Environment will locate the environmental plan pertaining to Salvajina and review it to assess whether or not EPSA is violating the terms of the title when it comes to Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities' right to previous consultation.



3) They will organize the next Regional Corporation for Cauca (mixed governmental and on-governmental environmental entity responsible for Cauca) meeting.

4) They will look for and send to the communities the information they are requesting in terms of how these communities can become involved in the environmental assessments made for the use of these territories.



Community Councils and Constitutional Court Order 005 on Afro-Colombian IDPs:



1) The community councils have asked that nine of the community councils that have requested their incorporation for the past two years (with little response) are in fact incorporated. These include the following community councils located in the municipality of Buenos Aires: Cerro Teta, Brisas del Rio Cauca and Alsacia. For the municipality of Suarez these include: La Toma, Asnazu, Las Brisas, Mindala and Las Mesetas and Robles. The authorities took note of this.

2) In terms of implementing the recommendations made in Constitutional Court Order 005 of January 2009 pertaining to internally displaced Afro-Colombians in the areas of Cauca in question, it was decided that the Direction for Afro-Colombian Affairs will respond the week of December 21 on what steps will be taken to implement this Order in this area of the country.



Investigations:



1) The Public Prosecutor for Human Rights will unify the various investigations that exist concerning threats against members of these communities into one case. This will be done internally by this entity in order to streamline the response.

2) The Public Prosecutor for Human Rights will decide who should be responsible for this investigation-whether it should be dealt with in Bogota or at the regional level in Cauca. The week of December 21st the authorities will decide this.

3) The authorities will provide periodic updates on how these investigations are going.

4) A person will be appointed to serve as the liaison between the communities and the Public Prosecutor for Human Rights.



Agreements and Responsibilities Directly Attributed to the Presidential Human Rights Program:



1) Starting the week of January 4th, Hermedis Gutierrez, official from the PPDDHH program in zone 2 will be present in the areas in question every 15 days. Mr. Gutierrez will be responsible for monitoring the threats against Afro-Colombians residing in the municipalities of Buenos Aires, Suarez and Morales.

2) In January, after the 12th, this entity will convene an internal meeting whereby a contingency plan will be developed. This plan will include a general analysis of the situation and steps that will be taken to deal with issues surrounding mining licenses, environmental plan for Salvajina, protection of these communities, formal recognition of the community councils, Constitutional Court Order 005 and investigations to be undertaken by the Public Prosecutor for Human Rights.

3) Carlos Franco discussed the security situation in these municipalities with Coronel Murcia. It was decided that the liaison for these communities concerning threats and security is Coronel Chavez. He is now the person in charge of monitoring the security situation in the area and attempting to clarify where the threats against the Afro-Colombian leaders originated, as well as the person responsible for addressing the presence of illegal armed groups in this region.

4) All new incidents concerning these communities will be directed to Remedís Gutierrez, Sandra Navaez, Diana Botero and Carlos Franco. These are the persons who should receive the information first. After these authorities received the information then the municipal human rights ombudsmen or PCN must send the information to the security forces in the area.

5) The communities' request for a community ombudsman in the area will be sent to the Human Rights Ombudsman.



The authorities have not fully complied with the above agreement and are now evicting Afro-Colombians from their lands.