Wave of violence rocks world's tribes

August 9, 2005

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As the UN celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day on 9 August, the world's tribes have been rocked by a wave of violent attacks and killings.

Papua: The Indonesian army attacked the Lani village of Pyramid in the Papuan highlands in July. Soldiers cut the face and body of Lani man Petto Wenda with a razor and a knife before pouring petrol on his head and setting him on fire. He is not expected to survive. Two other men were shot and have now disappeared in the jungle, where the rest of the villagers are also hiding. Earlier this year, the army and police killed a tribal leader, a child and an elder in the village of Nggweyage. They also burned down houses and churches. An estimated six and a half thousand people fled their villages. Too afraid to leave their hiding places, at least fifty died from starvation and disease.

Brazil: A Guarani Indian was shot dead on 26 June by gunmen hired by ranchers, only hours after he and his people had moved back on to the land from which they were evicted thirty years ago. Two Truká Indians were shot dead on 30 June by a police 'death squad', and an old Guajajara Indian leader was shot dead on 10 June by assassins believed to be working for the soya planters invading his land. Meanwhile the tiny uncontacted tribe of Rio Pardo are being shot at by loggers invading their territory.

Botswana: Seven Gana and Gwi Bushmen were tortured in June by government wildlife officials – as punishment for hunting. The Gana and Gwi rely on hunting to feed their families, but the government has evicted them from their land in the Kalahari and has banned them from hunting there. Victim Letshwao Nagayame said, 'They beat us up badly. I think they wanted to kill us…. The officials pulled my testicles and penis, beat me up, and kicked me, while one man smashed my knuckles on the hard floor.'

Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'These acts of horrific violence are being perpetrated against the world's most vulnerable people, whose existence is already threatened by theft of their land and destruction of their way of life. All too often, those responsible for violence against tribal peoples are not brought to justice. Survival is calling today for an end to these crimes.'

Petto Wenda's brother Benny Wenda from Pyramid in Papua is in the UK and is available for interview.

Photos and footage available. For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]