Article by PBI-Canada
On January 7, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project tweeted: “What happened? Indigenous peoples are special subjects of protection and are exempt from military service at all times in Colombia.”
The PBI-Colombia tweet amplified a post by the Inter-Church Commission on Justice and Peace (J&P), an organization it has accompanied since 1994.
The J&P statement highlights the forced recruitment by the Colombian Army of Nayiritau Bailarín Domicó, a young Indigenous man, in the city of Bucaramanga.
That statement further notes: “Members of the [Indigenous Embera] Alto Guayabal community [in the Bajo Atrato region] are exempt from military service because of their status as ethnic peoples who have been victims of armed conflict, and that much of their impact has been precisely caused by military agents in recent years.”
PBI-Colombia has previously explained that the Bajo Atrato region has recently seen the recruitment of young people, the confinement of Indigenous peoples who face a serious humanitarian situation, and threats to social leaders.
War Resisters International has further noted: “Indigenous people who live in their territory and preserve their cultural, social and economic integrity” are exempt from military service.
However, it adds: “The process is not so easy [because] the military judges the veracity of claims to indigenous status. They use either an outdated census, or a certificate issued to an individual by their community, which the authorities do not always recognize.”
Overall, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has noted: “Almost a third of the national territory is categorized as indigenous reserves.”
It adds: “[Most of those reserves] have to face serious environmental conflicts and land grabbing due to extractive activities in the zone.”
This past August, Indepaz reported that at least 1,000 Colombian human rights defenders and community leaders have been assassinated since late 2016
According to Indepaz, 37.6% of the assassinated victims played a leading role in their Indigenous communities, while 54.3% were a member of the National Organization of Colombia’s Indigenous (ONIC).