CCALCP seeks the implementation of the right to free, prior and informed consent in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP), an organization of women human rights lawyers based in the Magdalena Medio and Catatumbo regions in north-eastern Colombia, has long sought the implementation of the historic T-880 court ruling.

Judgment T-880/2006 of the Constitutional Court of Colombia relates to “the right to free prior and informed consent, and the rights related to demarcation of land, as well as exploitation of natural resources.”

The ruling referenced the then-draft of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Notably, Colombia abstained at the historic UN General Assembly vote on UNDRIP on September 13, 2007 (while Canada voted against UNDRIP).

Background on the ruling

The October 16, 2006 ruling involved a challenge in defence of the ancestral lands of the indigenous community Barí-Motilón in the Catatumbo region in the department of Norte de Santander in north-east Colombia near the border with Venezuela.

A Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project article provides the background that, “In 2002, the Colombian state company, Ecopetrol, entered the Catalaura indigenous reserve to carry out oil exploration and exploitation studies without the authorization of traditional Bari authorities or government environmental officials.”

“Due to several legal irregularities, in 2005 Ecopetrol obtained permission for the exploration and exploitation of what they called the Poplar Well I on the Socbakayra indigenous land within the Bari territory.”

“The Botilon Mari people filed a lawsuit demanding recognition of their rights and 18 months later the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of protecting and safeguarding the rights of indigenous people and forced Ecopetrol to leave their territory.”

That September 2010 PBI-Colombia bulletin also notes, “[Despite the ruling], Ecopetrol has announced other projects such as Alamo II, III and IV and Block Windows, all within the traditional Bari territory.”

Lack of implementation

A report in 2010 by James Anaya, who was at that time the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, highlighted that, “The development of effective consultation procedures that conform to international standards is one of the main challenges facing Colombia.”

That report then specifies, “In particular, the Constitutional Court has ordered several ministries to stop applying Decree 1320 of 1998 [which provides a framework for consultations with indigenous peoples] as it is contrary to the Constitution and the standards incorporated into domestic law. Decision T-880/06.”

New Decrees fall short

In 2014, Americas Quarterly noted Decree 2613/2013 and Presidential Directive 10/2013 seek to “provide more detailed steps on how to carry out consulta previa” than Decree 1320/1998 but  “because of institutional incapacity, much of the consultation process that the state is required to guarantee has been delegated, de facto, to the private sector – in violation of the fundamental principle of state responsibility under consulta previa.”

Petroleum in the Catatumbo region

In June 2018, Verdad Abierta both cautioned and commented, “The Catatumbo is bathed in oil and gasoline like no other. According to estimates from the national government, in the entire basin that makes up this vast area of ​​the north-east of the country there are proven reserves of 17 million barrels of oil.”

That article also highlighted, “According to the National Hydrocarbons Agency, by 2015 about 337 thousand hectares of land were committed for the production and exploitation of hydrocarbons, while some 224 thousand hectares waited to be concessioned to both domestic and foreign companies.”

Fracking and Indigenous rights

A July 2019 article in Petroleum Economist titled Colombian fracking edges closer to reality concludes with the sentence, “Unconventional assets are also often near indigenous lands, which could pose further headaches.”

As such, with the Colombian government reportedly on the cusp of approving fracking in that country in the coming months, Judgment T-880 continues to be significant ruling almost 13 years after it was first handed down.


In 2009, CCALCP noted that it has “accompanied the integral defence of life, nature, territory and culture of indigenous people and peasants in Catatumbo and from the legal accompaniment we have participated in the follow-up of compliance with this judgment [T-880] ensuring that the authorities and institutions act in a serious and respectful manner against the proposals and rights of the Bari people.”

Dr. Judith Maldonado Mojica, a lawyer with CCALCP until 2015, was deeply involved in this struggle and there have been security incidents related to this work. This article notes, “In March 2010, a voicemail left on her mobile phone threatened a bomb attack in response to CCALCP’s advocacy on behalf of the indigenous community of Motilón Bari.”

This coming November, Peace Brigades International-Canada and allies will be hosting Julia Figueroa and Andrea Nocove from CCALCP on a cross-country speaking tour where they will highlight issues relating to fracking and climate change.

PBI-Colombia has accompanied CCALCP since 2006.

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