Urgent Action: Colombia, Sept 2015

Indigenous Leader Arrested

Feliciano Valencia was arrested on September 15th.

CoDev is concerned over the recent detention of Feliciano Valencia, an indigenous leader with the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca (Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca – ACIN). CoDev’s partner NOMADESC has worked closely with ACIN on various indigenous and human rights issues for many years.

Feliciano Valencia was arrested on September 15th, 2015 after participating in an indigenous education event in the city of Popayán. The Superior Court of Popayán ordered Mr. Feliciano’s arrest, overturning a previous ruling which had acquitted Mr. Valencia.

In 2009, Mr. Valencia was arrested on charges of kidnapping and assault for his participation in the detention of a counter-insurgency soldier who had infiltrated a demonstration as an agent provocateur. Along with 6000 other indigenous community members, Mr. Valencia participated in the judgement against the soldier in accordance with the special indigenous legal jurisdiction defined in Colombia’s Constitution that recognizes the application of traditional indigenous law in their territories. The soldier was sentenced to 20 lashes by an indigenous council. Numerous human rights organizations, state human rights institutions, and national and international media were present at the judgement, and Mr. Valencia was subsequently acquitted of all charges.

Mr. Valencia is a nationally and internationally recognized indigenous leader from the southwest region of Colombia. He is recognized nationally and internationally for his extensive knowledge of ethnic rights, his contributions to advances in indigenous legislation, and his role in regional and national debates between social movements and heads of government in Colombia. In recent years he has led countless public protests and campaigns which have led to negotiations and agreements with the government, and has been an outspoken critic of the government’s failure to comply with these agreements.

Mr. Valencia has been the subject of serious security threats, including numerous death threats. NOMADESC and various organizations working for indigenous rights in Colombia believe that the decision by the Supreme Court in Popayán to arrest Mr. Valencia is politically motivated and linked to his role as a social movement leader.

Please consider taking a moment to join CoDev in sending a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to request Feliciano Valencia’s immediate release, and an investigation into those responsible for his detention.

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