MARCH 8, 1999
The International Indian Treaty Council is heartbroken and outraged beyond words at the brutal assassinations of Ingrid Washinawatok of the Menominee Nation and the Indigenous Women's Network, Lahe'ena'e Gay of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International, and Terence Frietas, environmental activist. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, friends and co- workers of these beloved individuals. They were, to the end of their lives, valiant warriors for peace, human rights and protection of the natural world.
Ingrid, Lahe and Terence were kidnapped on February 25th by armed gunmen in Uw'a Indian Territory of North Eastern Columbia. On March 5th, their brutalized and bullet-riddled bodies were discovered across the border in Venezuela. IITC is firmly committed to assisting the families in finding out the full truth about what occurred and bringing to justice those responsible for this heinous, barbarous act of violence. There are no words to fully express the extent of our condemnation for those responsible for this reprehensible act.
Ingrid came to the IITC as a college intern in 1978. IITC was able to secure a scholarship for her at the University of Havana in Cuba where she majored in the Spanish language. While studying in Cuba Ingrid met her future husband, Ali El Issa. Their son Maehki, now 14, traveled with Ingrid from his birth and was known and loved at the United Nations and by human rights organizations around the world.
After returning from Cuba, Ingrid worked in IITC's New York office for over eight years and continued to serve as a member of IITC's advisory council, as well as on the boards of many community and national-level organizations. Her bright smile, unforgettable laugh and sense of humor captured the hearts of all who knew her.
Information which has come to light since the kidnappings raises serious questions about whether the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia (FARC), initially implicated in the kidnapping, was in fact responsible. Many of the facts as well as possible motives for the killings point instead to the involvement of paramilitary forces operating in the region. These groups have much more to gain than the FARC by destabilizing the peace process in Columbia and alienating international human rights movements through such acts of extreme brutality..
Likewise, the role and involvement of the United States government must be scrutinized thoroughly if the entire picture is to come to light and justice served. US Attorney General Janet Reno was reportedly in Bogota the day before the bodies were found to finalize the transfer of over $230 million from the US to the Colombian government for its so-called "war on drugs" program. This program is reportedly used by the Colombian government to wage military operations against the FARC and has been implicated in widespread human rights violations against the civilian population.
The ongoing role of US-based Occidental Petroleum in perpetrating violence in the area must be thoroughly investigated as well. The Uw'a People have successfully opposed oil development by Occidental on their lands, in part by building international support and awareness The three slain activists were visiting and offering support to the Uw'a when they were taken captive.
The IITC calls upon the United Nations through its appropriate investigative bodies to assist in expediting the fact-finding efforts underway. UN involvement would minimize the possibilities for manipulation of facts to serve the foreign or domestic policy interests of the countries involved, and provide objective international oversight in this situation in which the human rights of the three victims were massively and brutally violated.
The International Indian Treaty Council is calling upon the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia (FARC) and the Government of Columbia to resume Peace talks in honor of Ingrid Washinawatok, a Great Menominee Indian Woman who was loved by Indigenous Peoples throughout the world. To use her death to undermine the Peace Process in Columbia would be a gross violation of her lifelong commitment to justice and human rights. The pursuit of peace is the only logical conclusion to this great loss.