Regional Decisions: Inter-American Court

Xákmok Kásek Indigenous Community v. Paraguay (Ser. C No. 214)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Republic of Paraguay violated Articles 21, 8, 25, 4, 5 , 3, and 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights by failing to ensure the rights of the Xákmok Kásek Indigenous Community to their ancestral property. Articles 21, 8, 25, 4, 5, 3, and 19 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes the right of American peoples to communal property, judicial guarantees, judicial protection, life, personal integrity, juridical personality, and the rights of the child, respectively. The Court determined that, by delaying the processing of the tribe’s territorial claims, the State rendered it impossible for the tribe to take control of their property and placed the tribe in a vulnerable situation with regards to medicine, food, and sanitation that threatened the tribe’s integrity and survival. The Court ordered the State to return the ancestral property, adopt into domestic law appropriate legislative mechanisms for indigenous peoples to reclaim ancestral territory, provide health care clinics, establish a community development fund, and pay adequate compensatory damages.

Case of Saramaka People v. Suriname (Ser. C No. 172)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Suriname violated Article 21 of the American Convention on Human Rights by granting logging and mining concessions on tribal land without consulting or benefitting the Saramaka People, or conducting social or environmental assessments. Additionally, the Court found that the State violated Articles 3 and 25 of the Convention by refusing to recognize a juridical personality in the tribal group, leaving it unable to challenge violations in court and therefore unable to obtain an effective domestic remedy. Articles 3, 21, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognize the right of American peoples to a juridical personality, to retain property, and to obtain judicial protection, respectively. The Court ordered the State of Suriname to delimit, demarcate, and grant collective title of the territory to the Saramaka People, grant the tribe juridical personality, adopt the necessary legislative measures to ensure the tribe consultative rights with regards to development projects on their territory, and fully compensate the tribe for material and non-material damages incurred.

Claude Reyes et al. v. Chile (Ser. C No. 151)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that the State of Chile violated Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights by withholding information regarding a deforestation project that could be prejudicial to the environment, without justification. Additionally, the Court held that the State violated Article 8 and Article 25 of the Convention because no written decision was ever produced and the domestic courts lacked the capacity to adequately handle the case. Articles 13, 8, and 25 of the Convention recognize the right of American peoples to freedom of thought and protection, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection, respectively. The Court ordered the State to adopt the measures necessary to ensure the right of access to State-held information, provide training to public entities in matters relating to providing such access, and reimburse applicants’ costs and expenses.

Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay (Ser. C No. 146)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Paraguay violated Articles 21 and 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights in delaying the processing of the tribe’s territorial claims, which had the effect of barring the tribe from possessing its land and exposing them to nutritional, medical, and health vulnerability, thereby threatening their lives and integrity. Additionally, the Court found violations of Articles 8, 25, and 3 of the Convention because of the unreasonable length and flaws in the proceedings for the return of their ancestral land, as well as the State’s failure to recognize the legal personality of the tribe. Articles 21, 4, 8, 25, and 3 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognize the right of American peoples to property, life, fair trial, judicial protection, and recognition before the law, respectively. The Court ordered the State to adopt all legislative and administrative measures necessary to return the tribe their ancestral lands, and provide the tribe with basic supplies and services in the interim.

Moiwana Village v. Suriname (Ser. C No. 124)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Suriname violated Articles 21, 22, and 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights in failing to launch an investigation of  a State-sponsored military attack against the villagers of Moiwana, which resulted in a displacement of the residents. Additionally, the Court found there to be a violation of Article 8 and Article 25 of the American Convention due to the extended amount of time that transpired without clarification of the facts or punishment of those responsible which, the Court held, amounted to an obstruction of justice and defied the standards for access to justice and due process of the American Convention. Articles 21, 22, 5, 8, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognize the right of American peoples to property, to freedom of movement and residence, to humane treatment, to judicial guarantees, and to judicial protection, respectively. The Court issued an order that Suriname investigate the attack, recover any remains of victims and deliver them to surviving community members, guarantee the safety of remaining community members, establish a community development fund and memorial to those who perished, issue a public apology, and pay just compensation to the surviving community members.

Note: Because the actual attack predated Suriname’s ratification of the American Convention, the subject matter of the application centered on the denial of justice and displacement of the Moiwana people. 

 

Case of the Plan de Sanchez Massacre v. Guatemala (Series C No. 105)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights accepted Guatemala’s acknowledgment of international responsibility for the State-led massacre of 268 members of the Mayan indigenous community and subsequent denial of justice in failing to redress the consequences of the massacre, in violation of Articles 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 24, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights. It is undisputed that the Mayans suffered the effects of massacres and “scorched earth operations” that involved complete destruction of their communities, homes, livestock, culture, social and economic institutions, and religious values and practices. Articles 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 24, and 25 of the American Convention recognize the rights of American peoples to humane treatment, fair trial, privacy, freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of association, property, equal protection, and judicial protection, respectively. The Court continued the hearing for the purpose of determining reparations.

Yakye Axa Indigenous Community of the Enxet-Lengua People v. Paraguay

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Paraguay violated Articles 4, 21, 8 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide the Yakye Axa Community with assistance during the processing of its claim over traditional territories and failing to conclude administrative processing of the community’s bid to recover land. Articles 4, 21, 8, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognize the right to life, property, fair trial, and judicial protection, respectively. The Court ordered that the State promptly identify and convey the land belonging to the community, issue a public acknowledgement of responsibility, set up a community development fund for the benefit of community members, and compensate tribe members for their damages.

Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni Community v. Nicaragua (Ser. C No. 79)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that Nicaragua violated Articles 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights by failing to demarcate the the community’s ancestral lands, granting logging concessions on those lands without consent, and failing to provide the community with an adequate domestic remedy concerning these complaints. Articles 21 and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognize the right of American peoples to property and judicial protection, respectively. The Court determined that the State must effectively delimit and demarcate the ancestral property belonging to the community and must pay appropriate reparations for the benefit of the community.