Colombia: Legal and humanitarian protection of indigenous groups

IDP ColombiaProject members: Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO) and Julieta Lemaitre (Universidad de los Andes Law School)

How does government-offered civilian protection work on the ground? The Colombian government has a civilian protection unit in its Ministry of the Interior, a unit charged with implementing the protection orders issued by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as the Colombian Constitutional Court. It also identifies, and protects, individuals at risk, mostly from right wing death squads. More recently, the government’s protection program, following the lead of the aforementioned institutions, has attempted to both project collectivities at risk, and do so with care to respect traditional cultures and beliefs. The case study explores the experience of the Kanakuamo people, an indigenous community living in North-eastern Colombia, which has experienced displacement, disappearances, executions and massacres. The community had protective measures ordered by the IAHRC for the better part of the last decade; in 2011, the IAHRC lifted the measures. This study focuses on their experience with government protection, IAHRC and Constitutional Court orders, and examines as well the role of the United Nations (UNHCR) and other international agencies in this context.