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The Indigenous Environmental Network expresses its deep sense of loss over the death squad style execution of three activists on a cultural education outreach visit to the U'wa tribe within their ancestral territory in Colombia, South America. We are calling for a prompt international investigation into actions of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which went on record on March 10, 1999 for taking responsibility for the March 4, 1999 murder of Ingrid Washinawatok, co-chair of the Indigenous Women's Network, Lahe'ena'e Gay, chair of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International, and Terence Freitas, coordinator with the U'wa Defense Working Group. As part of this investigation, we are also requesting the investigation include the roles of the Colombian military and allied paramilitaries, Occidental Petroleum, and the U.S. State Department whose historical and current actions may have contributed to the violence in Colombia as well as specific actions that contributed to these deaths. We also demand an immediate end to all U.S. assistance to the Colombian military and security forces, including training and drug eradication efforts.

These three brave activists gave their lives defending the rights of the U'wa to live their lives as they have since time immemorial, free from the genocidal devastation of oil drilling on their lands and the intimidation and terror of Colombian military and paramilitary forces. We must insure that their lives were not given in vain, and therefore demand that Occidental Petroleum withdraw its application to drill on ancestral U'wa lands. We welcome the March 1, 1999 statement by the company that it will suspend operations in the area until the issue is resolved and urge OXY officials to cooperate with any investigation towards resolving this issue. Even in light of FARC taking responsibility of the murders, many questions remain and this issue isn't yet resolved.

We wish to thank United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Mary Robinson for her prompt efforts condemning the brutal murders of the three human rights activists and her urging authorities to fully investigate the murders and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call upon her office to either conduct or insure for the monitoring of an independent and thorough investigation into this matter.

There remains the strong possibility that these human rights activists were killed in retaliation for the overall policies and historical actions of a government which has been the enemy of indigenous peoples of Colombia. This underscores the need at the international level to allow indigenous peoples to define their status with regard to the nation states which have continually usurped them by adopting the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in full and without modification. We call on the United States in particular to end its efforts at the international level to obstruct adoption of the Draft Declaration and acknowledge the inherent rights of all indigenous peoples to full self-determination.

Colombia has the worst human rights status of any nation in the Western Hemisphere today. Politically motivated killings in Colombia range from 3,000 to 4,000 a year. Environmental, indigenous and human rights activists know the growing oil infrastructure in Colombia has acted as a magnet for violence. The U'wa tribal peoples believe that oil is the blood of their mother and is viewed as sacred. Too much human blood has been spilled by those who see it as merely a source of profit. Perhaps this incident could bring light to the need for investigation and action to stop this violence against the indigenous peoples and all people and visitors of Colombia and the Americas.

Indigenous Environmental Network - National Office
P.O. Box 485
Bemidji, Minnesota 56619-0485 USA
Phone: (218) 751-4967
Fax: (218) 751-0561
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