REPORT No. 33/15
CASE 11.754
ADMISSIBILITY
U'WA PEOPLE
COLOMBIA
JULY 22, 2015

I.

SUMMARY

1.
On April 28, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter the “InterAmerican Commission”, “Commission” or “IACHR) received a petition that the U’wa people and its members
(hereinafter the “alleged victims”), represented by the the U’wa People’s Asociación de Cabildos Mayores; the
Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia and the Coalition for Amazonian Peoples and Environment
(hereinafter the “petitioners”), brought against the Republic of Colombia (hereinafter “the State” or
“Colombia”). By note of April 13, 1998, it was reported that the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” had joined as co-petitioners.
2.
The petitioners allege that without regard for their right to prior, free and informed
consultation, the Colombian State has taken measures that directly compromise their physical and cultural
integrity and identity. They further allege that the State has failed to take the necessary steps to protect their
ancestral territory. Specifically, the original petition was filed in connection with the State’s 1992 approval of
an oil exploration project in the so–called Samoré block within the U’wa’s ancestral territory, which the
petitioners contend was done without any prior consultations. The petitioners maintain that without regard
for the U’wa people’s rights, the State continued to allow drilling, mining and other projects that were
prejudicial to the U’wa people’s physical and cultural integrity and identity. As for the exhaustion of domestic
remedies, the petitioners maintain that a constitutional writ of protection of human rights [acción de tutela]
and an appeal were filed seeking nullification of the government order by which an environmental license was
granted for an oil project on the Samoré block, remedies that did not prosper and thus were ineffective in
protecting their rights. The petitioners contend that the State is responsible for violation of Articles 1(1)
(general obligations), 24 (equal protection) and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human
Rights (hereinafter the “American Convention”), and Article XIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man (hereinafter the “American Declaration”).
3.
The State, for its part, maintains that while the project’s environmental license was approved
in 1992 thanks to a concerted effort on the part of national agencies and even international organizations and
institutions, all steps and mechanisms available to it were used to ensure that the U’wa people’s rights were
effectively protected. It reports that it specifically pursued a process of prior consultations in connection with
the oil exploration activities within U’wa territory and that the initiatives undertaken were done in full
compliance with the requirements under the domestic legal system, while respecting the U’wa people’s
integrity. The State therefore requests that the petition be declared inadmissible since it considers that the
claims being made do not tend to establish violations of the American Convention.
4.
Without prejudging the merits of the matter, after examining the parties’ positions and in
keeping with the requirements stipulated in Articles 46 and 47 of the American Convention, the Commission
decides to declare the petition admissible with respect to the alleged violation of the rights protected under
Articles 8, 13, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26 of the American Convention, read in conjunction with Articles 1(1) and 2
thereof, and Article XIII of the American Declaration, to the detriment of the alleged victims. The Commission
further decides to notify the parties of this decision and include it in its Annual Report to the General Assembly
of the Organization of American States.
II.

PROCESSING WITH THE COMMISSION

5.
The Inter-American Commission received the petition on April 28, 1997, and recorded it as
number 11,754. By note of May 27, 1997, the IACHR forwarded the pertinent parts of the petition to the State,
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