Considerations on the Draft Decision on the Report of the Third Period of Sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
(New York, July 22, 2005)
Statement by the Delegation of Colombia
While considering the draft decision on the Report of the Third Period of Sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, my Delegation would like to express its disagreement with the surmising, out of context, selective mention of an alleged situation in the Colombian indigenous populations contained in paragraph 52 of the aforementioned document. Even though the Forum is a non-governmental setting strictu sensu and Colombia supported its constitution since its very beginnings, States cannot be in the position to accept imputations arising from a partial, out of context setting let alone when such a draft is to be presented to the ECOSOC pending a forthcoming decision by that organ on this issue.
Contents of the said paragraph 52 are contradictory since its first part expresses profound concerns about facts allegedly committed, that is, not yet verified nor duly proven. How can a decision be adopted, how can the Forum express its profound concerns on something that the Forum itself literally describes as "(…) alleged atrocities and human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples (…)"?
Regarding an explicit reference to Colombia, the Forum seems to be ignorant of the particular circumstances of a national situation characterized by an internal armed conflict that has consequences in the safeguard of fundamental rights, a fact already acknowledged by the international community as well as various organs of the United Nations.
Such explicit mention of human rights violations against indigenous peoples does not include a mention of the particular context of the internal armed conflict in Colombia, yielding to the Colombian State the responsibility of previously proven actions that have been carried out by non-governmental armed groups against civilians. Among them indigenous peoples whose special protection is contained in the Colombian Political Consitution and thus guaranteed by both national and local authorities.
Paragraph 52 of the draft document is selective when it mentions some States and recalls at the end of its first part "(…) atrocities against indigenous peoples carried out in other parts of the world. " Should there exist a genuine interest in protecting the human rights of the indigenous peoples, why is the interest focused on some of those peoples and not in them as a whole? Why, keeping in mind that they now refer to atrocities already verified? On top of that, the paragraph sub examine requests that the United Nations and its main bodies adopt the relevant actions, based upon presumptions.
The Delegation of Colombia strongly rejects this reference in the aforementioned draft report and requests that the ECOSOC undertake a review of the working methods of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues so that its mandate be rigorously fulfilled on the basis of objectivity and without the dangerous selectivity that permeates such draft document.
Based on the previous legal and factual considerations, the Colombian Delegation would like to join the consensus on the Draft Decision under consideration by the ECOSOC today, after intense negotiations. Nevertheless, my delegation would like to express the following considerations, concerns and reserves:
1. The Government of Colombia reiterates its support to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Colombia has accompanied the Forum since the origins of a proposal for its creation and will continue to do so because it is my country's conviction and commitment to guarantee the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, provided by the Colombian legal system with a special safeguard.
2. In honour of its credibility and prestige, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues must abide by the principles and functions contained in its mandate, in the light of the principles currently governing the UN system as well as the dispositions on the human rights protection system.
3. Verification and recording of human rights violation situations against indigenous peoples in States are actions to be undertaken by specific organs through specific mechanisms. The mandate given to both the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples and the Commission of Human Rights should not be perforated through overlapping of other subsidiary organs.
4. The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues overflowed its mandate in the contents of paragraph 52 since the Forum's powers do not include the ability to record situations, let alone if they are based upon presumed human rights violations in certain States.
5. It can hardly be understood, neither by the law nor by the reason, that a subsidiary organ of the UN system declares in an official manner such a statement because mutatis mutandis it is clearly ignorant of the good-faith principle and leads to a sentence with no previous verification.
6. By listing some States where atrocities have allegedly been committed and keeping in mind that the term "atrocities" has not been yet typified by the UN system, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is undermining two pillar principles of the human rights protection system, namely objectivity and no selectivity. Both of them are included inter alia in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as well as in several resolutions of the General Assembly. Even more burdensome is such violation if we keep in mind that the aforementioned paragraph does not refer to the other parts of the world where effective atrocities and human rights violations have been committed. I hereby recall that the paragraph literally expresses such idea as follows: "(…) atrocities against indigenous peoples committed in other parts of the world ."
7. Evidently, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has incurred in a clear abuse of its mandate and ignorance of its principles. Such are grave mistakes that the ECOSOC cannot afford to accept or permit.
8. The Colombian Delegation disagrees with an opinion expressed by another delegation in recent ECOSOC informal consultations, according to which a young organ such as the 30 year-old Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues cannot be judged as rigorously as other older organs or bodies. It is not the period of existence or the age of a body or organ, which determines the seriousness of the error but its actions and the official documents that reflect its work.
9. My Delegation does not accept the prevailing dangerous tendency through which the ECOSOC is turning into a passive authority regarding the actions of its subsidiary organs and the reports therein produced. The Secretary-General recently expressed in paragraph 29 of his Report on the Duties of the ECOSOC in the coordinated application and follow-up of the decisions adopted in UN conferences and summits, that "(…) the role of the Council has confined itself to taking notes of those reports." Even though he referred to reports by certain UN Funds and Programmes, we believe it can also be applied to the reports by subsidiary organs.