Presidents of the Constitutional court and Interamerican Commission on Human Rights

Honourable Presiding Judge
Antonio Jose Lizarazo Ocampo
Constitutional Court of Colombia

With copy to:
Executive Office of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights
Case 13.1666 – Afro Descendant communities of the Anchicayá River vs Colombia

I respectfully request the Colombian Constitutional Court to, without further delay, resolve the tutela T-8197319 by accepting the claims requested below by the community of the Anchicayá River in order to protect their rights and comply with the postulates to truth, justice, comprehensive reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.

With the objective of optimizing the production of energy, on July 21, 2001, the multinational Unión Fenosa Distribución S.A (Spain), former owner of the Hydroelectric Power Station of the Bajo Anchicayá, disregarding all impact assessments, took the decision of pouring 500’000 cubic metres of putrid mud that had been accumulated throughout decades of mismanagement directly into the Anchicayá River. This decision was taken without any consultation and did not take into account the affectations to thousands of Afro-descendant people who live in conditions of extreme vulnerability, depending on the river for their subsistence. The damages caused to the communities of the Anchicayá River are catastrophic, violating the Rights of the river and of its inhabitants and reflecting the bad practices of the Unión Fenosa Distribución S.A company. Indeed, after causing the disaster, the Spanish company sold the dam to the company Energía del Pacífico S.A. EPSA (today known as Celsia S.A).

Following the class action filed by the Community Council in 2002 to demand compensation for the damages caused by the disaster, the Court of the Valle condemned in second instance, on September 7th 2009, the company Energía del Pacífico S.A EPSA (Celsia S.A) by action, and the Colombian state by omission, for the damages caused in the 2001 disaster.

Similarly, the company was ordered to implement the compensatory measures contained in Resolution 809 of 2001 and 556 of 2002 issued by the Ministry of the Environment in favour of the Anchicayá communities. However, the Colombian State has not enforced the sanction, preventing the implementation of the programs for food substitution, fish farming and agricultural assistance contained in the resolutions that aim to mitigate, correct or compensate for the damages caused.

Subsequently, a decision chamber of the State Council issued the unifying judgment SU of June 10, 2021, which, arbitrarily and unjustly, leaves without effect the second instance judgment of the class action of 2009, annulling the valuation tests and censuses, criminalizing the attorney, excluding thousands of victims from the process and lowering the evaluation of the official surveys. This led to threats and violence from people belonging to violent outlaw groups who seek to be included in the group of victims.

Currently, the full chamber of the Constitutional Court has decided to review the tutela (T-8197319, Judge: Antonio José Lizarazo Ocampo) for the purpose of studying the request on several grounds: To declare the Anchicayá River and its tributaries as subjects of Rights; to prevent the risks of collapse of the dam; to annul the SU of June 10, 2021; to assume the substantive processing of the eventual review mechanism of the class action, and to order the immediate compliance of the second instance judgment of the class action of September 7, 2009, among other relevant aspects.

This message is an early warning because, today, the threat persists and the dam is once again clogged with rotten sediments, which could lead to the repetition of the tragedy, 21 years later.

In view of the foregoing, I hereby copy the Honourable Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with the purpose of contributing to the process with a substantive pronouncement that responds to the urgent public order and public health situations that the riverbank communities of the Anchicayá River are living, regarding case 13.166 – Anchicayá vs. Colombia, and in this sense, that the corresponding recommendations are presented to the Colombian State in order to achieve the standards of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.

Thank you for your attention and prompt response.

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