One of the methods commonly used in the defence of indigenous peoples’ rights (and human rights more generally) is to disseminate information on them (what they are, what their substance is, what they are based on) and on the extent to which they are actually implemented.  At the beginning of 2006, we concluded that there was a dearth of studies in the English language specifically devoted to the rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia, and so we decided to publish some material to compensate for this.

Protecting Indigenous Peoples’ Lands and Resources

This research was submitted as a masters thesis to the University of Oslo in May 2006. The author was a researcher for HREV.

The thesis presents research into the development of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Colombia, with special emphasis on the jurisprudence of its Constitutional Court. Colombia’s Political Constitution, combined with the jurisprudence of the Court, represents one of the best systems in the world for the legal protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. Despite this, the human rights situation for Colombia’s indigenous groups is critical, with several at risk of extinction because of political violence and the environmental destruction of their lands.
The research seeks to present the advances that the Constitutional Court’s decisions have represented for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights in Colombia. The Court has sought to improve this protection by taking into account both international human rights law and indigenous peoples’ own perspective in its interpretation of the Constitution. With regards to the latter, there is a special focus on the Court’s use of the knowledge and advice of expert anthropologists in an attempt to bridge the gulf between the western legal tradition and the different cultural realities within the country.

Given that most of the threats to the human rights of indigenous peoples are related to questions of land and the environment, essentially because of the special characteristics of these communities’ relationship with their lands, the research centres on the cases of the Court which deal with issues of land and natural resources, analysing how the Court interprets the relationship of these questions with the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1991 Constitution.

After presenting and commenting on the relevant jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, the study seeks to evaluate its success in ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. The Constitutional Court’s role in Colombian society is examined, as well as the relationship between the constitutional judicial system and social change.

The legal and social advances due to the work of the Court are identified, but also the serious discrepancies between the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples in the legal system and in reality.

Finally, there is an attempt to identify the contextual factors which may help to explain these discrepancies.

This work is directly related to Desecrated Land 2, serving as reference material for the study devoted to the legal situation of the Indigenous as Peoples and their Territories within the Colombian legislative framework.


To open the document, click on the image

It is only available in the original English version.

Legal framework for indigenous peoples’ rights in Colombia

This report was specifically designed to serve as a general introduction to the legal framework for indigenous peoples’ rights in Colombia.  It is essentially aimed at a readership which is unfamiliar with the relevant Colombian legislation and with the serious situation regarding indigenous peoples.  The original version was written in English and there is also a Spanish translation.

The study is part of the series of monographs for Desecrated Land 2.


Legal framework for indigenous peoples’ rights in Colombia (pdf)/ Spanish version (pdf)

Learn more about this document.

Cartography on indigenous peoples’ rights:

The cartography of Atlas Tierra Profanada is available at GeoactivismoMapas sobre Derechos de los Pueblos indígenas

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