February 25, 2019

Despite multiple alerts, illegal armed actors continue to fight for control of the territory in the Jiguamiandó and Curbaradó river basin areas (in the region of Urabá in northwest Colombia), resulting in ongoing violence and killings, placing the Afro-Colombian, mixed-ethnicity and indigenous communities in the region at serious risk and affecting their physical and emotional security and integrity.

PBI Colombia expresses its deep concern about recent events causing serious risks to the civilian population living in collective territories and indigenous territories (resguardos) in the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó river basin areas, as well as members of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz - CIJP), an organization accompanied by PBI Colombia since 1994.

Despite numerous complaints to the authorities by rural communities and the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, the civilian population is once again in the midst of clashes between legal and illegal armed actors, in the collective territories of Bajo Atrato, and until now there has been an inadequate response from the Colombian State regarding their prevention and protection.

We foresee an imminent risk of killings and forced displacement for the ethnic communities, as well as a humanitarian emergency due to the confinement of the communities and the persistence of physical, psychosocial and environmental damages.

These events are taking place in the midst of a stagnant process of land restitution, which increases the absence of guarantees for communities in the river basin areas. At the same time, there is greater territorial control by the Gaitanist Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia - AGC) and an expansion of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), without a comprehensive and effective response from the Colombian State. These communities are particularly vulnerable because they are actively providing information and testifying before the mechanisms of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Repetition (Sistema Integral de Verdad, Justicia, Reparación y Garantías de No-Repetición - SIVJRNR) and are now home to former combatants from the FARC guerrilla group.

Communities in the Urabá region of Colombia are in imminent risk of attacks and forced displacement. PBI, therefore, calls upon the international community to join us in taking immediate action.