Statement of solidarity with the work of the Guardia Indígena in Cauca
Statement of solidarity with the work of the Guardia Indígena in Cauca in the context of the current repression of social protests in Colombia and call for recognition, justice and protection measures
Front Line Defenders and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) recognise the ancestral work, resistance and collective protection of human rights and territories carried out by indigenous and Maroon (cimarronas) guards (guardias) in areas afflicted by the armed conflict in Colombia. These community guards face threats, attacks and stigmatising of their legitimate work.1
Since April 28, several social sectors2 have called for a national strike to protest against regressive tax reform proposals, and to demonstrate against and reject other harmful measures imposed by the current Colombian Government. Protests have been held in several cities across Colombia.
As a result of the repressive response of the authorities to the protests, at least a dozen members of the Indigenous Guardia have been injured while trying to protect and defend protestors from the disproportionate use of force deployed by state authorities in cities across Colombia.3 Front Line Defenders and Forest Peoples Programme are deeply concerned regarding the continuous attacks by state agents and armed civilians against members of the Guardia, which are being carried out with impunity. In particular, we express concern regarding the unjustified and excessive use of force against ongoing peaceful protests in Cali.
We wish to recognise the committed proactive role protecting human rights that the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) Guardia has played, and their extensive experience providing humanitarian protection in situations of serious and continuous violence, particularly in this context
The Indigenous Guard was recognized for its critical work with the Front Line Defenders Regional Award for the Americas in 2020.4 The Indigenous Guard of Colombia is a source of inspiration, and an example ofcollective peaceful resistance for all those who defend human rights in the Americas.
Both of our organisations request that state authorities initiate an impartial and exhaustive investigation with due diligence and proportionate penalties for those responsible for these attacks, which to date resulted in at least a dozen community guards being injured by lethal weapons. Investigations should include the case of Daniela Soto, a philosophy student and coordinator of the youth program of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, currently in life threatening condition, after being shot twice with a firearm.
We also request an investigation against those who have disseminated hate speech5 intending to stigmatise the protest of the indigenous movement and thereby increasing the risk of physical and armed attacks against them.
Finally, Front Line Defenders and Forest Peoples Programme highlight that the state is potentially implicated in these attacks against the Guardia Indígena and its members given the highly stigmatising and racist speeches issued by its authorities against those who, like the Guardia, defend their communities, especially in highly repressive contexts.6
We call on state and international authorities to recognise and protect the peaceful and legitimate work of human rights defenders, who must be allowed express their ideas and views, and to protest peacefully without fear of reprisals from their own government.
2trade unionists, indigenous leaders, afro-colombian leaders, activists working with internally displaced persons and on land issues, women's rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, students and youth activists and LGBTI activists
4 https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/es/organization/guardia-indigena-de cauca#:~:text=La%20Guardia%20Ind%C3%ADgena%20del%20Cauca,sus%20territorios%20de%20forma%20pac%C3%ADfica