Rights & Democracy honors Kimy Pernía Domicó, winner of the 2003 John Humphrey Award, reiterates need for investigation into his disappearance

Ten years ago today, Kimy Pernía Domicó disappeared, never to return.

Mr. Pernía Domicó, winner of Rights & Democracy’s 2003 John Humphrey Award, spent his life defending the rights of his people, the indigenous Embera Katio in Colombia, and played a leading role in the fight against the construction of a hydroelectric dam that threatened their way of life. The facts surrounding his disappearance have never been exposed.

Rights & Democracy wishes to honor the memory of Kimy Pernía Domicó by reiterating its demand for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding his abduction, so that the perpetrators may be brought to justice. Even though the abduction and subsequent murder of Mr. Pernía Domicó by senior Colombian paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso’s men were publicly confirmed in 2007, Mr. Pernía Domicó’s body has never been found, and the perpetrators have still not been arrested or tried.

Mr. Pernía Domicó, indigenous leader respected for his integrity, knowledge and moral authority, knew he was threatened. A few days before his abduction, he had gone to meet an international verification mission organized by Rights & Democracy and the Assembly of First Nations of Canada to witness the plight of its people, the Embera Katio (Choco, Colombia), threatened survival by the armed conflict and the effects of the Urra dam built on their territory. The Constitutional Court of Colombia has in fact included the Embera Katio in the list of 35 peoples in precarious situations and at risk of extinction because of armed conflict.

In 2003, Mr. Pernía Domicó was awarded the John Humphrey Award, presented annually by Rights & Democracy to an organization or individual for their exemplary contribution to the promotion of democratic development and respect for human rights. His daughter accepted the award on his behalf.

Rights & Democracy hoped emphasize the fact that hundreds of people disappear every year never to return, that their families are still looking for them and that perpetrators go unpunished.

Kimy Pernía Domicó has been honored by his people, and he remains an important figure for them and for all indigenous Colombians. A school was even established in his memory in Bogotá. Rights & Democracy joins them today to celebrate his life and the struggle for dignity and survival of the Embera Katio and of all indigenous Colombians.

Justice must be done. Impunity is a factor in the erosion of democracy and the rule of law; it must be fought.