Peru is facing a wave of environmental conflicts as extractive industries expand into land whose ownership remains legally unclear and a new report by Global Witness highlights how this process will become potentially bloodier through laws recently passed in Lima.
The report “Peru’s Deadly Environment” states that 57 environmental defenders have been killed since 2002 with 60% of these occurring in the last four years, and that Indigenous Peoples have been among the most exposed to the new violence. Global Witness found that that “80% of all killings of environmental and land activists in Peru between 2002 and 2013 stemmed from local opposition to extractive projects” while Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsman documented “1935 social conflicts generated by opposition to mining projects over the period 2006 to 2014.”
The vast majority of mineral deposits are located on or near Indigenous lands, and logging activities in Peru’s Amazon have also seen Indigenous activists murdered, including Edwin Chota, the campaigning mayor of the Ashéninka community of Saweto in September this year. Global Witness reports that the murder of Chota and three of his companions was symptomatic of “The government’s failure to recognize Indigenous claims to their traditional lands, an issue Chota and other Indigenous leaders campaigned on for more than a decade”, as well as “Poor law enforcement and pervasive corruption that is allowing illegal logging to thrive in the Peruvian Amazon; and the gaps in institutional capacity and resources to adequately address these problems.”
Pointing to a common theme, Equal Times noted on news of Chota’s death: “Official recognition of the Saweto Indigenous community came in 2003, a year after a section of their land was given to a logging company for 40 years. The logging had 'priority', although the government committed to study and solve the case.”
The titling of Indigenous land has proceeded at a snail’s pace across Peru, resulting in incursions by loggers in the Amazon, and in the mountains by mining companies taking advantage of formerly communal land being claimed by some as individual titles. Global Witness notes that 20 million hectares of Indigenous land in the Amazon is still pending official titling.
In mountainous areas affected by insecure titles, many Indigenous activists are working to emphasize the common benefits of collective land titles, arguing that it places the community in a far stronger position to negotiate with mining companies. The Quechua community of Paras is located over 3300m above sea level in the High Andes of Ayacucho province, Peru. Like other mountain regions, Ayacucho is increasingly becoming a focus of mining companies eager to exploit a region that's rich in mineral resources long un-exploitable due to the insurgency by Shining Path guerrillas.
In the face of concentration in land ownership and the prevalence in Peru of development theories based on the benefits of private ownership such as those of the Lima-based Institute for Liberty and Democracy, activists like Tania Pariona Tarqui spoke to the farmers of Paras concerning the impacts that open cast mining has had on the peace and livelihoods of Indigenous communities across the Americas. The poisoning of land, the violence and communal fracturing associated with the Marlin Mine in Guatemala served as a warning, she said, to Indigenous communities not securing collective title of their land.
Paby Cáceres Vargas of Ayacucho’s Defensoría del Pueblo also attended the meeting, describing the rights of Indigenous peoples under international law and in the Peruvian constitution. “The problem”, he said later, “is the implementation of such rights. The backlog of land ownership cases still to be processed and the slow pace of land titling are staggering.”
The same challenge faced Edwin Chota in the territory around the Upper Tamaya River in the Peruvian Amazon---an issue that will be highlighted when Peru hosts the World Climate Change Conference next month. Global Witness’s report reveals that “Deforestation in Peru accounts for almost half its greenhouse gas emissions, with the rate of destruction more than doubling between 2011 and 2012 to 246,000 ha annually”. The report also quotes recent research by the World Resources Institute showing that Indigenous land rights has proven to be one of the most effective ways to curb deforestation and cut carbon emissions.
The Peruvian government has proceeded to undermine such rights not only through failing to provide the resources necessary for proceeding with pace in providing titles, but passing new legislation – Law 30230 – that weakens environmental and social protections in a bid to encourage further investment in logging and mining. According to La Campaña Territorios Seguros para las Comunidades del Perú, Indigenous communities lacking irrefutable proof of their property rights stand to lose most from the new legislation.
Law 30151, passed in January this year, exempted the Police and military from criminal responsibility if they kill protestors while on duty. The law fits a pattern, according to Front Line Defenders, of the security services being used as a legally immune private security force for extractive industries, resulting in the criminalization and victimization of Indigenous and environmental activists.
Source : email@example.com
Chevron's repeated refusal to clean up its toxic contamination of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest constitutes an "attack" on civilian populations and should be investigated by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, impacted indigenous and farming communities charged this week in a formal complaint (pdf) to the global body.
“In the context of international criminal law, the decisions made by Chevron’s CEO, John Watson, have deliberately maintained—and contributed to—the polluted environment in which the people of the Oriente region of Ecuador live and die every day,” states the complaint, which was submitted to the ICC's Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Thursday on behalf of approximately 80 affected communities, totaling tens of thousands of people.
In 2011, impacted communities won a judgment in an Ecuadorian court against Texaco (acquired by Chevron in 2001) for its toxic waste dumping in the Lago Agrio region in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992, which created an ongoing environmental and public health crisis, including high cancer rates and reported birth defects among residents. Last year, Ecuador's National Court of Justice upheld the verdict but cut the initial mandated payment from $18 billion to $9.5 billion.
Chevron has repeatedly refused to pay the $9.5 billion ordered by Ecuadorian courts and even took the step of removing most of its assets from Ecuador in an apparent effort to avoid paying. Petitioners slam what they call "multiple collateral attacks against the judgment and the lawyers who represented the affected communities."
After years of legal battles, impacted peoples have not seen any reparations.
“The health conditions imposed on the indigenous and farmer communities that live in the Oriente constitute a serious and sustained attack on the population that has lived there peacefully for centuries,” states the ICC complaint. “The damages, which have been documented and confirmed in countless inspections conducted for the Ecuadorian case, brought various consequences, including water contamination, ground contamination, cancer, forced displacement, extermination of two ethnic groups, and many other disastrous conditions that are described in the annexes to this communication.”
The petition charges that the systemic harm inflicted by Chevron constitutes a "crime against humanity" and therefore is of concern to the international community.
"It is critical that all legal mechanisms be fully utilized to put an end to what is effectively impunity for a major American oil company that is committing human rights crimes against vulnerable populations," said Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for the impacted communities.
Article originally published at Common Dreams. Re-published on IC under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Source : Intercontinentalcry.org
Malaysian and international human rights organizations have united to publicly condemn the actions taken by authorities and logging company representatives to intimidate Indigenous Peoples in Sarawak at the proposed site of the Baram Dam. On 21 October, coercive action was taken by police from the General Operation Force (GOF), Forest Department officers and personnel representing logging interests from the company MM Golden to pressure residents of Long Kesseh to abandon their customary lands and disperse from the site, where they had set up a barricade. As a result of the violation of rights outlined in the national constitution and provisions of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, an urgent appeal was submitted on 22 October to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. The appeal calls on her to raise concerns with the Government of Malaysia about the actions taken to forcefully dismantle the barricade, which had been set up one year ago by local residents of Long Kesseh to assert their native customary rights (NCR) to land being allocated against their will for the Baram Dam site.
Exactly one year ago, on 23 October 2013, the people of Long Kesseh set up a barricade on an area of native customary land that would be submerged if the 1200MW Baram Hydroelectric Project is built as proposed by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB). If this dam is completed, it would inundate 26 villages, including Long Kesseh, flooding 400 square kilometers of land and displacing between 6000 to 20,000 people. In response to SEB’s efforts to begin preparatory work for the Baram Dam, residents of Long Kesseh and surrounding areas symbolically marked their defiance by building a barricade on their own land.
The members of longhouses to be affected by the Baram Dam, including Long Kesseh, have never given consent for any timber clearance or other preparatory project works to proceed on customary lands. Yet, agents working with M. M. Golden Sdn. Bhd. are claiming the land is part of a concession they were granted. Although the circumstances related to the issuing of their logging permit remain ambiguous, the company has become associated Sarawak Energy Berhad’s efforts to clear timber around the Baram River and help pave the way for the construction of the proposed Baram Hydroelectric Project.
Serene Lim of the national human rights group, SUARAM, explained, “Villagers in Baram are defending their customary property rights; they have not granted free, prior and informed consent for their land to be taken by the government or any private firm. That is why the people of Long Kesseh continue to affirm their rights to the area, and why they decided to rebuild the barricade.” She added, “It is unacceptable that the authorities are evidently backing M.M. Golden’s incursion onto native customary lands, while completely disregarding clear legal provisions and precedents protecting the rights of original landholders. Given the complicity of government authorities along with agents hired by logging and energy companies in violating fundamental human rights, we decided to bring this case to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
According to Thomas Jalong, a resident of Baram and President of the National Indigenous Peoples’ Network, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), “Sarawak Energy needs access to the area currently being defended by the villagers if they are to proceed with the proposed Baram Dam. Despite the fact that no social or environmental impact assessments for the proposed dam appear to have been approved, SEB is ready to jump into preparatory work. This confrontation at Long Kesseh is appears to have the direct aim of opening up grounds for the Baram Dam to proceed. However, the personnel involved have failed to intimidate the villagers into surrendering their land so that it could first be stripped of timber and then subsumed by a dam.”
“We are calling on M.M. Golden, SEB and the Government of Sarawak to respect the native customary rights land designation and the rights of Indigenous Peoples to free, prior and informed consent,” said Tanya Lee of International Rivers. “As a matter of urgency, government authorities, companies and financiers must accept the fact that the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan People of Baram have expressed their widespread opposition to the Baram Dam and to further logging on their land. Upholding national and international law along with industry best practices would mean withdrawing from the area and immediately returning any land already acquired for the purposes of the Baram Dam to the rightful landholders. ”
source : Intercontinental Cry
The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INAI) has formally recognised the Santa Rosa Leleque Mapuche community’s ownership of 535 hectares in Chubut, Patagonia.
The terrain is part of 900,000 hectares that were sold to the Benetton corporation in 1991, in a deal that the Mapuche have always called illegal. The community was evicted from the land in 2002, but returned to occupy it in 2007.
The decision to hand the titles back to the community brings to a close one of Argentina’s most infamous territorial disputes of recent times. It is also a watershed for the rights of indigenous communities, setting a precedent that activists hope will be followed in similar disputes around the country.
Veronica Huilipan of the Indigenous People’s Human Rights Watchdog (ODHPI) said: “After a long struggle, led by the community and involving different tactics to highlight the case, such as a trip to Italy and the involvement of Argentina’s Nobel Peace laureate, we have finally seen this decision in favour of the community.”
The decision is the latest a in series of rulings in favour of indigenous communities in Patagonia. At the end of October, the Campo Maripe Mapuche community, which resides in an area of Neuquén known as
Vaca Muerta, was also given official legal status. Vaca Muerta is home to one of Argentina’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, which are accessed through the controversial technique of fracking.
It is hoped that the community’s new status will give them more power to demand their constitutional rights of consultation over the use of natural resources that exist in their terrain be recognised. This right is particularly important in light of Argentina’s new Hydrocarbons Law, which is designed to attract more private investment into the country’s growing energy sector. The law was passed by the Senate on 30th October.
Huilipan said that the Campo Maripe community are going to challenge the law, as if it passes it will have done so without the communities being given their constitutional right to consultation.
She is hopeful that they can succeed: “The Mapuche communities have shown us that when they take a political stance, they are highly skilled at organising and mobilising, and have made huge gains and won important struggles in the past … So when the Mapuche confederation organises in such a way, we have high expectations, yes. The community is extremely open to entering into dialogue when they feel they have not been consulted on issues that affect them directly.”
Source : Mapuche mailinglist in English/Dutch