Monday, September 25, 2023

Colombian Indigenous Court Sentences Rebels to Flogging

EFE – Four members of Colombia’s FARC rebel group were convicted by a court of the Nasa Indians of disrupting the “harmony” of the community and sentenced to flogging.

An audience of about 1,000 elders and residents of Nasa reserves in the embattled southwestern province of Cauca made the decision unanimously to subject the minor defendant to 10 lashes and the three adults to 30 lashes.

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All the defendants are Nasa who took up arms with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The trial, recognized by Colombia’s 1991 constitution, was held at a high school in the municipality of Toribio and the court deliberated for three hours to determine what the best “solution” for the defendants would be.

The Nasa, also known as the Paez, do not understand such “solutions” as punishments, but rather as options that allow them to once again harmonize their relationship with the community and with their spirit.

Marcos Yule, the governor of the Toribio reservation, explained to Efe that the punishments that are normally imposed under the indigenous law are the “cepo,” a wooden structure that presses on the legs or hands, temporary burial where only the head is above ground, the “whip to beat the illness, counseling and even … exile.”

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The four FARC fighters were whipped on the lower half of their bodies, causing serious wounds on the backs of their legs that were treated by community medics.

“The adults received the 30 (lashes) but the minor could not take the 10 and it was lowered to half that, five, because … he is 16,” Yule said.

Afterwards, the authorities counseled them “to leave that life and return as civilians to your reserves,” and they turned them over to their families.

The four had been held since last Wednesday, when members of the Nasa Indigenous Guard apprehended them in the mountains near Toribio with rifles and explosives.

Intense fighting in Cauca between government forces and the FARC has driven more than 2,800 indigenous and mestizo people from their homes since the beginning of July.

In fact, a battle was raging about an hour’s walk from Toribio during the trial of the insurgents.

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The Association of Indigenous Governments of North Cauca, or ACIN, set a deadline of midnight last Monday for all “armed actors” to leave indigenous territory.

While much of the Nasa leadership was occupied with the trial of the rebels, the Indians also held talks with officials of President Juan Manuel Santos’ government, sent to Toribio to try to resolve the issues that led to clashes between security forces and the indigenous people.

One Nasa was killed and around 30 others injured Wednesday in incidents associated with an operation by riot police to evict scores of Indians from a hilltop military outpost in Toribio.

Elements of the Nasa Indigenous Guard – armed only with ceremonial batons – first occupied the post last week. On Tuesday, they bodily removed around 100 soldiers from the installation.

A second Indian was killed on Friday and the army replaced the military commander in the region.

The Nasa are one of several Colombian indigenous groups to proclaim their neutrality in the internal armed conflict and demand that both sides leave them alone.

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