The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia

Emblematic cases

What we do

Emblematic cases

Emblematic cases

In 2015 Oidhaco decided to accompany certain communities and processes involving the defence of human rights, in order to support them in their international advocacy.  Colombia continues to face challenges in the field of human rights and peace, and our emblematic cases draw attention to concrete situations that reflect the structural dynamics of violence in  Colombia. We also work with our partners in Colombia to raise awareness and develop activities that contribute to peace building and respect for human rights in Colombia’s regions.

Oidhaco has selected three emblematic cases: the Bajo Atrato, Buenaventura and the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca. Historically, the regions of the Pacific Coast (Buenaventura in the south and the Bajo Atrato in the north) and Cauca have been ravaged by the armed conflict, whose effects continue to worsen. Their communities, leaders and human rights defenders play a fundamental role in peacebuilding in their territories and in ensuring respect for human rights in Colombia.

The case of the Bajo Atrato

The sub-region of the Bajo Atrato in the Department of Chocó suffers a range of different problems: for two decades, in the context of the armed conflict, the paramilitary project has implemented a strategy of large-scale land grabs intended to consolidate an extractive economic model, associated with the implementation of agroindustrial and infrastructure projects, to the detriment of the ethnic and territorial rights of indigenous and afro-descendant communities. The paradigmatic cases of  Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó form a part of this overall case study.

Since 2019, the Bajo Atrato has been living through a difficult situation, described by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman as a “sustained humanitarian crisis”, characterised by a considerable worsening of the armed conflict and of its effects, caused by the confrontations between the Ejército de Liberación Nacional  and the paramilitary group the  Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. This has led to an increase in the number of human rights violations and infractions of International Humanitarian Law, with clear consequences for the mainly indigenous and Afro-Colombian civilian population and their territories, including forced displacement, threats against male and female leaders, restrictions on the movements of ethnic (especially indigenous) communities, sexual violence, the laying of minefields, land seizures, selective murders, forced recruitment and extorsion. The region is also the site of a strategy to expropriate territories belonging to ethnic communities in order to consolidate an extractivist economic model related to the implementation of agroindustrial schemes and infrastructural projects that violate the ethnic and territorial rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. It is, furthermore, a case that involves questions such as the restitution of lands and/or ethnic and peasant rights over territories, as well as resenting a serious humanitarian crisis, human rights violations and infractions of International Humanitarian Law.


Buenaventura is the principal international port on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, as well as being situated in one of the parts of Colombia worst affected by the armed conflict. The commercial routes that emanate from it provide port access and capacity for the entire Pacific Coast up to and including the Panama Canal. The hydrological and mineral resources it commands and their potential profitability in the form of mega projects, industry and tourism have led many different actors to take an interest in controlling the territory. However, despite the signing of the Peace Accord, human rights violations persist, and the dispute between armed actors and criminal structures to control and/or exploit the region has transformed the municipality into a scenario of multiple forms of violence and inequality.

The seriousness of these crimes has led several districts in the city to create a Humanitarian Space which the legal and illegal armed actors are forbidden to enter. Simultaneously, multiple civil society organisations organised a civic strike in Buenaventura to demand that the Colombian government ensured respect for their human rights. The alliance established between private businesses and the local authorities for the implementation of mega projects has also contributed to the eviction of inhabitants from their territories and the seizure of their lands, and to increased foreign investment. The actions of this company have had environmental effects, a worsening of the living conditions in neighbouring districts including noise pollution, the illegal discharge of waste liquids, the loss of communal spaces and negative effects on fishing.

Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, CRIC

The Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (CRIC) represents more than 90% of the indigenous communities of the Department of  Cauca, currently comprising 115 cabildos (traditional authorities) and 11 associations of cabildos, themselves divided into nine strategic zones and representing eight indigenous nations from the department. Its mission is to defend the fundamental and specific rights of the indigenous people of the Department.  

Indigenous territories have been affected since the Colombian armed conflict first reached  the Department of Cauca. All the actors in the conflict have sought to impose control over the indigenous communities in the department, attacking and violating their constitutional rights to autonomy and self-determination. The violations and their effects have been multiple and include the murder of political and spiritual leaders; sexual violence; the forced recruitment of minors; forced disappearances; displacement and threats, all of which, taken together, constitute a risk of extermination, as the Constitutional Court recognised in Ruling 004 of 2009. Many indigenous communities and from Cauca have been certified as collective victims under the terms of the Peace Accord, which acknowledges their rights to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition both as communities and as individuals. However, because the political will of the Colombian state is lacking – as is apparent in the cuts to the Comprehensive System of Justice, Truth, Reparation and Non-repetition and the failure to fulfil countless agreements with the communities – the guarantees of non-repetition have not been fulfilled. The most frequent occurrence is individual threats against men and women leaders and human rights defenders. Violations to the right to life, massacres and assassination attempts also occur, and the activities of the indigenous guard in their own territories are stigmatised.