The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia – ONIC, denounces, rejects, repudiates to the public and to national and international human rights defence organisations and the institutions of the Colombian State responsible for guaranteeing the life and integrity of Indigenous Peoples, the murder of an Embera indigenous leader in the Riosucio Chocó of CAMIZBA – ASOREWA.
The case concerns Aquileo ‘Aquileito’ Mecheche Baragon, from the Reservation of Rio Chintadó jurisdiction of the Municipality of RioSucio, former president of the Indigenous Cabildo of Bajo Atrato CAMIZBA – ASOREWA, and rector for the last seven years of the Jagual Indigenous Educational Institution and defender of human rights .
The incident occurred in the municipality of RioSucio Chocó, on the night of April 12, 2019, at 10:00 pm. Indigenous leader Aquileo Mecheche Baragon, 52 years old was taken from his residence and killed across from the CAMIZBA facilities after receiving three bullet holes in the face. The killing took place just after an international humanitarian mission had left the area to investigate the high level of risk faced by by indigenous and Afro communities and peoples in the region.
Aquileo Mecheche was one of the leaders who headed the Minga del Chocó, which was held in November 2018, when more than 400 indigenous people moved to the city of Bogotá to demand guarantees of safety and a dignified life in their territories. Within the framework of this minga, in direct dialogue with the High Commissioner for Peace of the Presidency of the Republic, Aquileo denounced the multiple threats received from the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC).
The most recent threats and harassment occurred on March 25 and 27, 2019, when men belonging to the AGC armed group entered the community of El Jagual in order to intimidate, harass and threaten the entire community, and especially the compañero Aquileo. Later, on March 27, while the community was waiting for the arrival of the Humanitarian Mission, clashes broke out between the National Army and the AGC, leaving the indigenous population in this area in the middle.
These facts were denounced by the Human Rights Council of the ONIC, and an urgent call was made to the different institutions of the state, Public Prosecutor’s Office and international organisations to take immediate and effective actions for the protection of life and the integrity of all the community and the indigenous leader Aquileo.
Finally, within the framework of the National Minga for Life, the denunciations, petitions and demands against these events were repeated to the National Protection Unit, the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Nation and other institutions that were present in the Minga. Specifically, an agreement was reached with the UNP, in response to evident breaches of the agreements of the Minga Chocó in November. However, we consider it pertinent, and we demand immediate and effective actions by all the institutions of the State regarding the events that have occurred and to those that may occur.
This fatal result was unfortunately widely anticipated, and the circumstances that led to the killing had been notified to the authorities most recently by ONIC on March 4,in a statement in which the Indigenous Peoples Embera Katío, Embera Dobida, Senú and Wounaan del Bajo Atrato declared that they are in a situation of constant risk due to the actions of armed groups outside the law that identify themselves as AUTODEFENSAS GAITANISTAS DE COLOMBIA – AGC and the ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION – ELN, in addition to the permanent militarisation by the National Army.
As a result of the # Minga Chocó Por La Vida last November, the national government had made a public commitment to investigate the situation in the territories to control the serious crisis. However, the military confrontations are ongoing in the territories, generating serious risks for the communities due to the situation of armed conflict that is worsening in the region and the confrontations with the other armed actors, in addition to the violations of international humanitarian law that this represents, leaving so far this year, at least 8 indigenous children killed, leading to a lack of medical services in the territory, which means that people have to travel to other areas in search of medical help.
It is imperative that protection measures be accelerated, in a coordinated manner with the indigenous authorities, and that measures of psychological and physical support and protection be provided to prevent multiple victims.