5 August 2015
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined fifteenth to sixteenth reports of Colombia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the reports, Carmen Velasquez Camargo, Vice Minister for Participation and Equality of Rights at the Ministry of the Interior, stated that the violence suffered by Colombia over recent decades had been the major challenge for the entire society. One of the most serious consequences of the conflict was forced displacement, and the State had adopted a series of decisions to support displaced Afro-Colombians, indigenous communities and women. The National Development Plan sought to improve living conditions for ethnic minority groups in Colombia as a priority matter. The three main pillars in the National Development Plan in the coming years were peace, equality and education. The education sector emphasized intercultural and multilingual instruction, with the participation and cooperation of the indigenous peoples’ authorities. The linguistic heritage of Colombia was protected by the recognition of 68 native languages.
In the subsequent discussion, Committee Experts expressed general appreciation for the existing legislative framework in Colombia, but emphasized that in many aspects full and thorough implementation was still lacking. They emphasized the need to protect indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in areas where large development and industrial projects were taking place, stressing the importance of prior consultation and the access of those communities to water and land as their basic right. Questions were asked about measures to protect political and community leaders of ethnic and racial minorities and human rights defenders. The peace negotiations in Havana, the work of the Ombudsperson’s Office, reparations, economic development and definition of Colombia as a “social state” were also discussed, as well as the universalization of education.
Ms. Velasquez Camargo, in her closing remarks, said that Colombia had made significant progress, and the Convention helped keep the State on track and moving in the right direction. The end of the conflict would substantially improve the human rights situation in the country, the rule of law and democracy. Strengthening institutions and making them more participatory was an ongoing challenge.
In concluding remarks, Carlos Manuel Vasquez, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for Colombia, commended the progress made in the peace process. He emphasized the importance of prior consultation, especially when it came to mining concessions, and said the protection of human rights leaders and defenders was also very important. He also highlighted the need to address the urgent situation of the Wayuu people and other indigenous groups in Colombia.
The delegation of Colombia included representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Defence, National Protection Unit, Victims Unit, Pacific Management Office, Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Vienna and the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today to start its consideration of the combined nineteenth to twenty-second periodic report of Costa Rica (CERD/C/CRI/19-22). All country reviews can be watched via live webcast at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org.
The combined fifteenth to sixteenth reports of Colombia can be read here.
Presentation of the Report
CARMEN VELASQUEZ CAMARGO, Vice-Minister for Participation and Equality of Rights at the Ministry of the Interior, introducing the reports, first denounced the assassination of an Afro-Colombian leader the previous day. Ms. Velasquez Camargo said Colombia did not shy away from addressing issues of racism and racial discrimination and was fighting the scourge unapologetically. According to the latest national census of 2005 just over four million people had identified themselves as Afro-Colombian and 1.4 million as indigenous people, 79 per cent of who lived in rural areas. Colombia applied a multidimensional approach to equality, and promoted affirmative action for marginalized groups and those who required special protection. A law enacted in 1993 had allowed Colombia to make progress in collective land rights. The Ministry of the Interior was in charge of inter-institutional cooperation on the issues of combating discrimination. All Ministries needed to have units in charge of the needs of ethnic communities.
The biggest challenge to Colombian society had been the violence suffered by the country over recent decades. One of the most serious consequences of the conflict was forced displacement. In response the State had adopted a series of decisions to support displaced Afro-Colombians, indigenous communities and women. Self-government organizations of indigenous communities had been encouraged and 18 special protection plans for Afro-Colombian communities were in place. The single victims register recorded more than seven million persons, out of whom there 650,000 Afro-Colombians and 150,000 indigenous Colombians. Decisions had been taken in favour of communities, granting them land rights in the wake of the conflict.
Colombia promoted the national guarantee process for human rights defenders, social and communal leaders, with the goal of ensuring safe conditions for their activities. An inter-institutional committee decided on the level of protection on the basis of estimated risk. Some 487 members of ethnic groups currently enjoyed protection by the State. There were efforts to include more recruits from ethnic groups in national police forces. Liaison offices had been created to improve conditions between the police and armed forces and local communities. Penalties of perpetrators of discrimination and racism included imprisonment for up to 36 months; 181 investigations were being pursued at the moment, and one prison sentence had been handed down thus far.
Ms. Velasquez Camargo said that the National Development Plan, as the major public policy document, included improving conditions of life for ethnic groups in Colombia as one of the State’s priorities. For the first time in the history of the indigenous people and Roma, those two groups had been consulted in the drafting of the National Development Plan 2010 to 2014 and 2014 to 2018. A comprehensive health care pathway contained numerous measures to ensure access to healthcare in a holistic manner. Sexual and reproductive healthcare provision was among priorities for the adolescents. The education sector put an emphasis on intercultural and multilingual instruction, with the participation and cooperation of the indigenous peoples’ authorities. The linguistic heritage of Colombia was protected by recognizing 68 native languages and Romani in addition to Spanish. The main legal documents had been translated into native languages.
Programmes such as “Families in Action” and “Youth in Action” provided social support to the underprivileged and most vulnerable groups. The creation of special electoral circumscriptions for indigenous and Afro-Colombian people, through constitutional means, was envisioned. Prior consultations were an essential step in decision-making; for example, indigenous communities had been consulted on laws on reparations. In the large percentage of cases, the agreement of communities had been reached through the process of prior consultation. Colombia actively supported and promoted the International Decade of People of African Descent. Within the Organization of American States, Colombia had signed inter-American declarations and conventions on fighting discrimination and intolerance. Ms. Velasquez Camargo concluded by saying that Colombia was moving towards peace, which was now a real possibility more than ever before. The three main pillars in the National Development Plan in the coming years were peace, equality and education.
Questions by Experts
CARLOS MANUEL VASQUEZ, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Colombia, said that the decision by the President to move negotiations forward to end the armed conflict was of great importance for ethnic groups, who had been disproportionately affected by the decades of fighting. The National Centre for Historic Memory had drafted significant reports on the suffering of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Other positive steps included cooperation between the State party and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Civil society in Colombia was very active in spite of the challenges that they faced.
Structural and de facto discrimination were matters of concern in Colombia. Areas inhabited by Afro-Colombians were also the poorest areas in the country, which was a clear sign of the persisting inequality. There was a significant gap between prosperous cities and marginal, mostly rural, areas. Illegal armed groups were allowed to control swathes of both urban and rural areas. Lack of protection and impunity were very serious problems, the Expert noted, asking what measures was the State party taking to address the issue of impunity and protect those of African and indigenous descent?
The Committee had received information on the inefficacy of protection offered to local leaders. What was being done to protect those persons better, especially women?
While economic development was acknowledged by the State party as a way of reducing inequalities, which had not been the case so far. Mega projects had instead led to further involuntary displacement, the Expert said. He asked about the Government’s plans to reduce the existing inequalities between “the two Colombia’s”.
Free and prior consent was a fundamental right of indigenous people vis-à-vis projects planned on their lands. There were doubts about the good will of the State party regarding prior consultations. Often, no changes were made in the State party’s plans even after hearing the local community’s objections. There had also been worrying statements by senior officials regarding prior consultations, who had described them as obstacles paralyzing the State agenda. Did such statements reflect the position of the State party and, if not, had any official criticize such statements?
Some 34 indigenous peoples were facing possible extinction, the Expert stated. The Wayuu population was suffering as a result of the construction of a water dam in their region. Lives of the Wayuu children had thus been brought into danger. Were there plans to solve that potentially catastrophic problem? Other indigenous communities were facing similar challenges.
Concern was expressed about land titles for Afro-Colombians as there seemed to be problems with providing such titles. What measures were being taken to facilitate their provision? Did the State party recognize the concept of ancestral land?
Afro-Colombian communities seemed to be excluded from the peace negotiations in Havana. The Expert asked whether the State party was planning to include them in the negotiations, as the outcome of the negotiations would inevitably affect them and the final agreement needed to reflect their legitimate interests.
The lack of disaggregated data was a matter of concern for the Committee. Such data was necessary in order to properly address the problem of economic inequality. Why were discrepancies in the estimates of the number of people of African descent? The Expert asked whether Afro-Colombians would be involved in the preparation of the next census.
Colombia faced challenges not so much in approving regulatory framework, but rather in implementing it, the Expert said. There was a big gap between laws, courts’ decisions and the situation on the ground. In spite of the challenges posed by the armed conflict, State inertia was also to blame.
Another Expert said that it was not clear which of the Committee’s recommendations had been implemented, and a list containing them all would be welcome. He asked whether the needs of all four different communities of Afro-Colombians were addressed when the Government was drafting and implementing policies.
The right to water was an important one and could not be separated from the right to adequate food, the Expert said. The State party had an obligation to respect that right, he stressed. The lack of access to water was a matter of serious concern; children’s lives in certain communities were at risk. The State party, at the very least, had to pursue a dialogue with companies concerned and ensure that appropriate measures were taken to provide clean drinking water. Human life had to prevail over all other interests.
The National Development Plan 2010-2014 was devoted to ethnic communities said an Expert, asking about the results of its evaluation. The competencies of local indigenous councils were raised by another Expert, who wanted to know more about their scope. He asked for more details about special measures taken and wanted to know more about the definitions of race and nationality. Who provided the definitions of those concepts?
The independence of the Ombudsperson’s Office was also raised by an Expert, who asked more information about how it was being ensured. The Ombudsman’s Office enjoyed status A under the Paris Principles. Nonetheless, there was a need for a selection process which was more clear and participatory. Regarding human rights defenders, the Expert underscored that many amongst them were women. What protective measures were in place? Another Expert inquired about the relations between domestic legislation and international treaties.
An Expert commented that genocide had become a commonly used term, often used with great ease. The Colombian legal definition of it might thus be exaggerated.
Roma faced discrimination around the world, the Expert noted and asked about their treatment in Colombia. Was there truly a problem with the Roma population in Colombia, or were they well integrated?
The Expert asked whether the universalization of education included indigenous children and children of Afro-Colombian descent, the Expert asked.
More information was sought about the ongoing peace negotiations in Havana, and how those negotiations could affect the issue of racial discrimination. Another Expert asked what impact the peace agreement would have on the ground, especially when it came to the control of territory.
What were the differences between the four categories of the Afro-Colombian population? A question was asked about the situation and treatment of foreigners in Colombia. Did they enjoy the same rights and Colombian nationals? Restitution of land rights to indigenous communities and Afro-Colombians was brought up by an Expert.
The Constitution of Colombia gave a possibility for a special legal regime to protect minorities before the country’s courts. What was the sum of standards and procedures relevant to those courts? How many levels of appeal since the case were decided on the first instance?
Had anything been done within the framework of the plan to identify ancestral lands, an Expert asked. More information was sought about the application of the prior consultation process.
The Expert inquired about results of investigations into cases of racial discrimination, and if anyone had been prosecuted. Acts of racism and racial discrimination against individuals were criminalized.
What was meant by the term “social state” used in the State party’s report? One also did not get a very good idea of the overall demographic picture of Colombia from the report under consideration. Could more information be provided about the fundamental aspect of the Colombian State?
Questions were asked about the differences in income and net wealth between different sectors of society. Without such information, it would be difficult to discuss equalizing measures. What percentage of households among different communities was headed by females? Another Expert raised the issue of reparations, which had reportedly not been equitable. Could the delegation provide more details?
Health care seemed to have a very serious problem for all Colombians, and not only for indigenous people and Afro-Colombians. What steps was the Government taking to tackle that problem, particularly for those most vulnerable?
What sort or progress had been made with regard to Roma and indigenous populations? More information should be provided on economic, social and educational differentials between different segments of the population.
Particular concern was expressed over the inclusion, or the lack thereof, of minority women in decision-making processes and their political participation. Women could easily be left out in peace processes, especially minority women. What steps could be taken to make sure that such women were explicitly included in the ongoing Havana negotiations? What kind of protection was provided to women leaders from minority groups, when such protection was needed?
Another Expert asked what the most effective protective measures would be, especially in the context of the murder of the prominent local leader Gennaro Garcia the previous day. The Committee had received information that the slain leader Gennaro Garcia had been receiving death threats for years and asked what protective measures had been put in place for him, if any.
What measures was the State party taking to prevent forced contact with indigenous communities, an Expert inquired. How were loggers prevented from illegally entering those territories? Had prior agreement by the local population been received ahead of the provision of a mining concession to the AngloGold Ashanti Company?
What strategies did the State party have in place to ensure that indigenous communities had access to water? Could there be a policy to ensure provision of necessary infrastructure which would secure access to water and consequently make it possible for people to remain on their ancestral lands?
Response by the Delegation
In response to the question about statistics, a delegate said that a further population census was planned for 2016. It would be carried out by the Statistics Office of Colombia. People had the right of self-declaration in the census. More than 41 million people lived in Colombia today, five million of whom identified themselves as belonging to minority ethnic communities. In 2005, 79 per cent of the indigenous population had lived in urban areas. The indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations were younger than the populations as a whole. Educational programmes were in place to strengthen the identity of minorities and promote their languages. Over 30 per cent of Afro-Colombian households were headed by women, the delegation noted.
The Ombudsperson’s Office was autonomous and part of the public legal service. During the 2015 constitutional reform, an article had been amended to further ensure its independence. The Ombudsperson was appointed by the Parliament for four years.
The Vice Minister for Participation and Equality of Rights dealt with cross-cutting guarantees across a number of Directorates and ensuring indigenous communities’ participation in those affairs relevant to their affairs. The Directorate for Human Rights was the broadest in the Ministry. The delegation stated that the current institutional framework ensured that the State party’s obligations were fully met.
The law 1482 referred to the acts of racism and racial discrimination. The term “arbitrarily” meant someone acting outside of law and unjustly. The Constitutional Court had clarified the terms “race” and “ethnic”. “Race” was applied to person, while “ethnic” was applied to communities; thus “ethnic affairs” referred to community affairs. Amnesties were not foreseen for racism and racial discrimination; they were seen as aggravating circumstances.
The delegation said that the term “genocide” referred to mass extermination of a population group characterized by their race or religion.
With regard to the fight against impunity, the delegation informed the Committee that the process of bolstering the judicial system was underway. Its presence was being expanded across the country, while institutional coordination was also being improved. By the end of the process, 28,000 civil servants would be working in the system. The idea was to bring justice closer to the people.
International legal instruments, such as the Convention, prevailed over all other domestic legislation, the delegation explained. Civil rights were protected under the same constitution, which gave foreigners equal rights; political rights were reserved for citizens. There were institutional pathways in place to lodge cases of discrimination.
Indigenous authorities were recognized by the Ministry of Justice; there was an ongoing dialogue with the view of ensuring coordination and consistency. Indigenous jurisdiction could not go against human rights. Indigenous peoples had their tribunals of first and second instances; punishments could be served within their respective jurisdictions.
Work carried out by human rights defenders had to be protected and valued. A high-level oversight mechanism was in place, including heads of different bodies, such as the Ombudsperson. The Ministry of the Interior held public hearings in different regions, urging local authorities to support the work of human rights defenders; 12 such events had been held thus far. Prevention measures were also undertaken to secure the work of human rights defenders.
The delegation confirmed that Gennaro Garcia had had protection for years, including a bodyguard, a bullet-proof vest, and a cellphone. The bodyguard reported that he had not heard from Ms. Garcia for three days prior to his assassination. Mr. Garcia had not indicated to his bodyguard that he would be traveling or needing his services on 3 August, the day of his assassination.
Analysts from the National Protection Unit were responsible for examining the risk level for community leaders who might warrant protection. Once the risk level was established, a committee would decide on exact protective measures that would be provided in cases of “extraordinary” or “extreme” risks. The implementation was subject to successive evaluations. Measures could, inter alia, include temporary relocation, tracking, bullet-proof vests, cellphones, armour plating and armed bodyguards. In 2014, US$4.4 million had been spent on protecting local indigenous leaders. There were 363 persons currently protected by the National Protection Unit. Mechanisms could be activated as soon as necessary.
Collective protective measures could also be provided. Training courses for indigenous guards were an example of activities provided. The National Protection Unit had worked together with communities on the design of ethnic protection plans. All State entities were involved to mitigate risks, as needed.
On the issues of restitution of land and victims, the delegation said that a landmark law had recognized the victims of the armed conflict. It came in the context of transitional justice; the Victims Unit was in charge of coordinating restitution for victims among 47 different entities. Both individual and collective rights were taken into consideration. Over seven million victims had been recognized so far, the majority of whom had suffered from forced displacement from 1985 until 2015. Those who had suffered from forced displacement or human rights violations before 1 January 1985 were also considered victims and could demand reparations.
Since 2012, collective reparation programmes had been in place; at the moment, there were three ethnic communities on the list for reparations. Resettlement, reintegration and guarantee of non-repetition were all parts of the integral, holistic approach. Materials for building houses were also provided. Over 19,000 victims from ethnic communities had been compensated so far, with the total sum of more than US$50 million. Other measures for compensating victims included facilitating return processes or resettlement, whenever it was voluntary, secure and provided with dignity. Special measures were taken for female victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict.
A delegate explained that the ethnic protection plan was a holistic framework drawing support from various State institutions. Implementation was subject to consultations with indigenous communities. Various platforms for dialogue existed. A delegate added that there had been no genocide against the Wayuu people. She also noted that basic sanitation and forestation projects would be conducted in Wayuu areas this year.
The issue of ancestral lands belonging to black communities was being studied now. Prior consultations had been initiated in a number of communities, and a timeframe had been established in others. The Government recognized ancestral settlements of black communities, under a 1993 law. Territory was perceived in a holistic manner - as an expression of collective memory and liberty - demonstrating interdependence of different concepts.
In Buenaventura, the Government had focused its efforts on combating violence affecting Afro-Colombian communities living there. The first measure had been to increase police, infantry and prosecutor presence. Measures had been taken against organized crime, which had led to clear results, without violating human rights of the inhabitants of Buenaventura. Actions against illegal mining had led to prosecution of 1,500 people. Security of the affected communities had consequently been improved.
Colombia had made a great deal of progress on women’s representation through quota laws, and there were 36 per cent of female candidates in the latest elections. The National Development Plan included the goal of having at least 20 per cent of women in political structures. Public awareness campaigns were underway on the importance of involving women in politics more. Two women were taking an active part in the peace negotiations, including the Foreign Minister. Some 60 victims had visited the Havana peace negotiations, 39 of whom had been women.
Regarding the peace process, the delegation stressed it was very important to note that the Government was pursuing them at the moment while making necessary guarantees to vulnerable populations. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian representatives were present at the talks in Havana; their security concerns were taken into consideration. The final aim was to bring an end to the armed conflict and ensure its non-repetition. Rural living conditions should be improved and democracy strengthened with the view of achieving a long-lasting peace. Affected indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would also take part in local schools of peace sessions.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
An Expert reiterated his earlier question on Roma, and asked for more information about their situation in the current day Colombia. He restated that the excessive use of the term “genocide” was a slippery slope.
Another Expert brought up the issue of percentage of Afro-Colombians in the country – why was there a discrepancy between the numbers provided by the State party and those by the United Nations, for example?
On the issue of protection, the Expert said that there was a need for more protection mechanisms. The data spoke for itself: the number of killings was a sign that there was a clear need to improve the existing system. Sometimes the response by the National Protection Unit came too slowly. The protection needs of those living in rural communities were not probably given the level of information they deserved.
Turning to the issue of prior consultation, the Expert reiterated the need for greater efforts to implement the principle in question more efficiently. She asked for more information about prior consultation in the case of AngloGold Ashanti.
What measures had been taken by the State party to allow indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities to protect their cultural identity? What was being done to combat discrimination based on nationality, especially when it came to migrants? Acts of discrimination were always conducted against individuals, the Expert stressed, even though if they were targeted as members of certain ethnic groups.
An Expert emphasized that corporal punishment was not in line with international standards, and indigenous people should not be exposed to it. Who were the attackers on indigenous and Afro-Colombian local leaders, the Expert asked, also enquiring whether any organized groups were conducting such attacks.
Replies by the Delegation
On the matter of census, the delegation explained that the reason for the discrepancy was the issue of self-identification. Steps would be made in the next census to allow people who wished to self-identify as black to do so freely.
There were proposals to alleviate access of indigenous groups to their own education system. The “Mother Earth Programme” was an initiative which recognized the important value of linguistic diversity, said a delegate.
All efforts to benefit children and adolescents in the armed conflict had been stepped up, especially those who had been victims of forced recruitment. They were registered as victims in the national registry and would be eligible to full reparations. The Victims Unit also carried out training programmes in a number of regions, with the aim of reducing consequences of illegal recruitment of children into armed groups.
Every time there was threat, there should be a report in order to establish who was responsible for it, a delegate explained. Once a complaint was submitted, a number of involved entities had to be contacted. There had been three murders of people under protection up to date. Had Mr. Garcia left his house with his escort, he would not have fallen prey to the homicide. The delegation specified that very differentiated measures were provided, included motorbikes and training, to indigenous guards. The number of personnel involved in the protection of human rights defenders was increasing.
A national Afro-Colombian authority had been established, the delegation informed the Committee. However, the Constitutional Court did not recognize its congress and the results thereof, including the protocol on prior consultation. A recent statement by the State Council had declared that constitutional departments of districts were not the right place for consultations. A national platform for prior consultation ought to be set up instead, said a delegate, noting that in February 2015, more than 500 delegates from across the country had met to discuss the issue.
Recognizing ethnic diversity meant that special indigenous jurisdictions had the right of self-governance and hand down punishments. Indigenous jurisdiction had developed and established certain boundaries which ought to be remembered when penalties were handed down. Since the armed conflict, no jurisdiction could be ignored, the delegation said.
Answers concerning AngloGold Ashanti would be submitted in writing later in the day, a delegate informed the Committee.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
An Expert stressed that it was the State’s responsibility to protect human rights defenders. Any system of protection was always fallible; protection was not only about security, but also about prosecution and convictions. What was the basis for the State policy to give primacy to material exploitation over human and natural wealth, as specified in the Constitution?
Another Expert asked whether a complaint could be lodged to the Constitutional Court when a constitutional right in line with customary law had been violated. It was important that all customary law was in line with the Constitution and the international law. Could non-indigenous men and women be a party in a case which was tried in line with the indigenous customary law?
An Expert raised the issue of trust and confidence building, and asked how the full representation of various groups in the Havana peace talks was ensured. There was a need to diversify national conversations in order to include women from minority groups, the Expert said. How were those women represented in different fora?
Another Expert asked whether the State party had envisioned amnesty measures for FARC rebels, currently the Government’s interlocutors in the peace talks.
An Expert stressed the urgency of the situation of the Wayuu people, which needed to be addressed. He asked how victims could make requests for reparations and prove that they were indeed victims. More information was sought about the economic differentials between various ethnic and racial groups.
Replies by the Delegation
The State had been providing protection to all leaders who had requested it. Those under threat had to comply with certain procedures in order to ensure their own security. If the State designed a scheme of protection for a certain person, that person should cooperate and keep his bodyguard informed of his plans and whereabouts.
Investigations into crimes against indigenous people were currently ongoing, in different stages, in 643 cases, a delegate informed the Committee.
All mining activities needed to meet legal requirements. The Ministry of the Interior could intervene to ensure that contracts were given to indigenous persons.
With regard to the peace talks, the delegation emphasized that it was necessary to first end the conflict before starting peacebuilding. All stakeholders were involved in the process. Victims, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian victims, were at the heart of it. All the progress made in Havana was public.
CARMEN VELASQUEZ CAMARGO, Vice Minister for Participation and Equality of Rights at the Ministry of the Interior, thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue highlighting the remaining challenges in Colombia. She noted that some outstanding answers would be provided to the Committee within the next 24 hours. Colombia had made significant progress and the Convention helped keep the State on track and moving in the right direction. The end of the conflict would substantially improve the human rights situation in the country, the rule of law and democracy. Strengthening the institutions and making them more participatory was an ongoing challenge, and civil society was thanked for its contribution to the process. Colombia was committed to fulfilling its commitments, concluded Ms. Velasquez Camargo.
CARLOS MANUEL VASQUEZ, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur, commended the positive work of the State party, particularly the progress made in the peace process and the inclusion of minorities in it. The importance of prior consultation was restated: it was necessary to make it a reality, especially in cases of mining concessions. Equally, the protection of human rights leaders and defenders was very important. The urgent situation of the Wayuu people and other indigenous groups needed to be given due attention. Mr. Vasquez thanked the delegation for the interaction and the fruitful discussion and dialogue, which he hoped would continue in the future.
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