WOLA (The Washington Office on Latin America) celebrates Colombia’s Supreme Court decision to acquit prominent indigenous leader Feliciano Valencia after he was arrested in 2015 under alleged kidnapping charges.
On Wednesday, June 28 the Supreme Court annulled a previous ruling by Popayan’s superior court, which sentenced Mr. Valencia to eighteen years in prison for allegedly kidnapping an army soldier in 2008 in Cauca.
Mr. Valencia’s defense explained that an undercover soldier dressed as a civilian infiltrated an indigenous protest and entered an indigenous territory in order to collect intelligence. The soldier was captured and later sentenced to twenty lashings by the indigenous community.
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the soldier falsely accused the indigenous community of being guerrillas and “did not just try to enter their territory, but failed to identify himself adequately and was carrying military in an offense against the harmony of this community.”
WOLA celebrates Mr. Valencia’s acquittal as he will undoubtedly be a leading indigenous voice during the next trying years of the implementation of the peace accords. WOLA also highlights the importance of the Supreme Court’s decision which ratifies the validity and legitimacy of the indigenous justice system, which is protected under the Colombian constitution.