Forced Displacement of the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples

Information from Cajar, read the Alerta Urgente here.

On 27 February 2024, the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples, together with Colombian human rights organisations CINEP, CAJAR, AIDA and FIDH, have issued an urgent alert to notify authorities and the international community of a situation of massive forced displacement throughout the Rancheria river basin.

On 24 February 2024, over 300 Wiwa Indigenous Peoples, including children, were forcibly displaced towards the city of Riohacha, and some to take refuge in other Indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada, in the northeast of Colombia, due to confrontations between illegal armed groups in the area. Other Wiwa communities remain forcibly confined and at risk of being displaced.

Since October 2023, several heavily armed illegal groups have intimidated and terrorised the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples. On 24 February 2024 the Wiwa were forced to flee due to armed clashes between the paramilitary groups the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) and the Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra Nevada (ACSN) who were vieing for control of the territory.

According to the Urgent Alert (alerta urgente), an armed confrontation began in the community of Limón de Carrizal between the AGC and the Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra Nevada (ACSN) between 24 and 25 February which catalysed the forced displacement toward Riohacha. So far, no humanitarian aid has been offered to any of those affected.

The humanitarian situation of the displaced Wiwa Peoples is very delicate and demands urgent action by the State to protect them. They are subjects of special constitutional protection and are in a situation of defencelessness and vulnerability. The Wiwa Indigenous Peoples are also recipients of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2005, due to forced displacement and acts of violence – including the assassination of 50 indigenous leaders. The IACHR precautionary measures order Colombia to adopt measures to protect the life and integrity of the Wiwa Peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and provide humanitarian assistance to victims of displacement, particularly children.

ABColombia recommends that the Colombian Government and local authorities to:

  • Adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of the members of the Wiwa People of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, respecting their cultural identity and the special relationship they have with their territory.
  • Provide humanitarian attention to the victims of forced displacement and the food crisis, particularly to the children of the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples.
  • Convene a session of the Inter-institutional Roundtable to follow up on the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR, with the participation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior and other relevant authorities to address the humanitarian and security situation of the Wiwa Peoples.
  • That the relevant authorities carry out a physical exploration in the territory to eliminate unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices that may have been left in the territory as a result of the confrontations.
  • That the Attorney General’s Office, initiate an investigation into forced displacement and other crimes that may have been committed as a result of the confrontations and the presence of armed groups in the territory.

To the UK and Irish Governments:

  • That the UK and Irish Embassies meet with CINEP, CAJAR and the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples to monitor the situation.
  • That the UK and Irish Government’s speak with their counterparts in Colombia to ascertain what actions are being taken to protect the Wiwa, and to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary, as well as, to discuss the possibility of the state removing safely any unexploded devises left in the indigenous territory by the illegal armed groups.

To the UN :

  • That the Office of the high Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) monitor the humanitarian and human rights situation.
  • That the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples visits the SIerra Nevada de Santa Marta and talks with the four indingeous tribes, which includes the Wiwa.