and asked that its response be presented within 90 days. By note of July 22, 1997, received on August 7, 1997,
the Colombian State presented its initial response to the petition.
6.
While the petition was being processed with the Commission, the petitioners filed additional
observations on October 24 and 28, 1997, April 3 and 7, 1998, and September 8, 1998. The State presented
additional information on January 28, 1998 and June 4, 1998. These briefs were duly forwarded to the
respective parties. On October 7, 1997, during the IACHR’s 97th session, a hearing was held with the parties in
attendance.
7.
By a note of March 3, 1998, the Inter-American Commission placed itself at the disposal of the
parties with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter. In a note received on April 3, 1998, the
petitioners expressed their willingness to “arrive at solutions of this type provided those solutions will protect
and preserve the integrity of our peoples’ rights.” In a note dated June 4, 1998, the State agreed to embark upon
a friendly settlement process and, for the first round, suggested meetings with the petitioners to determine
what forms of dialogue would be acceptable to both parties.
8.
In their reply of August 31, 1998, received the following September 8, the petitioners repeated
their willingness to engage in the dialogue, but observed that the government’s stated interest in the process
did not jibe with the measures it had taken at the national level. The parties did not present any additional
information until February 21, 2007, when a communication was received from the petitioners expressing
their interest in reactivating their case with the IACHR, arguing that the situation of the U’wa people had
deteriorated and that no progress had been made toward a friendly settlement of the matter.
9.
Subsequently, the petitioners provided additional information on February 21, 2007 and
December 11, 2013. The State, for its part, presented additional observations on March 1, 2007, June 4, 2007
and October 15, 2014. These briefs were duly forwarded to the parties.
Precautionary measures
10.
At the time the petition was filed, a request seeking precautionary measures was also
submitted in which it was alleged that the “oil exploration would inflict irreparable harm and seriously
compromise the U’wa people’s ethnic and cultural integrity and identity.” The petitioners therefore asked the
Commission to order suspension of the environmental license granted to the oil company until the Commission
determined whether the oil exploration authorized in the Samoré block violates the U’wa people’s ethnic and
cultural integrity and identity. By note of May 27, 1997, the IACHR requested information from the State
concerning the measures taken to protect the U’wa people’s cultural, religious, social and economic integrity in
the context of the oil exploration project. That request was reiterated on July 16, 1997, and answered by the
State on August 3, 1997.
11.
Furthermore, on February 11, 2000, the petitioners filed another request seeking
precautionary measures alleging that the Colombian State had authorized oil drilling at a well called Gibraltar,
located hundreds of kilometers from the U’wa reservation, with the result that the oil company had started
construction of a road that would be harmful of the U’wa’s ancestral territory. The IACHR did not grant those
requests.
III.

THE PARTIES’ POSITIONS

A.

The petitioners

12.
The petitioners state that the U’wa people live in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in the
northeastern quadrant of Colombia, in an area spanning the departments of Santander, Norte de Santander,
Boyacá, Arauca and Casanare. They further observe that this indigenous people, numbering some 7,000, is one
of Colombia’s most traditional peoples and keeps its traditional culture alive based on the practice of orality.
They assert that “the way of life and cultural principles of the U’wa people center around respect for the land
and the strengthening of U’wa values.” They allege that the Colombian State has, however, adopted a number
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