Press Release

IACHR Brings Argentina Case before the IA Court

February 23, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.094, indigenous communities that are members of the Lhaka Honhat (Our Land) Association, involving Argentina.

In the Merits Report on the case, the IACHR concluded that the victims’ right to property had been violated due to their not having been furnished with the deeds to their ancestral territory, despite the fact that they first requested these over 20 years ago, in 1991. The IACHR also found that the right to property had been violated by the state’sn refraining from guaranteeing these legally recognized rights, thus violating indigenous communities’ access to the effective implementation of the law. On this point, the IACHR found that the state had undermined the indigenous communities’ legitimate trust that provincial authorities would work toward providing them a commonly held deed to their territory. Likewise, the IACHR concluded that the right to legal guarantees and protection had been violated due to the lack of an effective procedure to access deeds to this ancestral territory, and due to a series of no less than six changes to the relevant administrative procedure for this indigenous land claim.

The case also entails other issues to the detriment of indigenous communities, including ignorance of property rights and the denial of access to information and the right to participate in matters likely to affect them, in that the state carried out public works and granted concessions for hydrocarbon exploration in their ancestral lands without first complying with the requirements for expropriating such lands, including ensuring that there are no threats to their subsistence; carrying out prior, free and informed consultations and social and environmental impact studies; and guaranteeing that indigenous communities share in the profits these concessions bring. Finally, the IACHR found that there had been a further violation of the right to property to the detriment of the indigenous communities through the state failing to take effective action to prevent the deforestation of indigenous lands through illegal logging.

In the Merits Report, the IACHR recommended that Argentina conclude the process it had implemented regarding Fiscal Lots 14 and 55, taking into account the inter-American standards listed in the report. It also recommended that reparations be granted for violations of the right to own land and the lack of access to information in connection with the public works without prior consultation or environmental impact studies, and without granting the communities a share of the profits from these. Furthermore, the IACHR recommended that the state of Argentina ensure that when defining territorial boundaries and approving any future public works or concessions on ancestral lands, the state carries out prior informed consultations, environmental impact studies, and a share in the resulting profits, in accordance with inter-American standards.

The IACHR filed the application with the court on February 1, 2018, as it judged that Argentina had not complied with the recommendations set out in the Merits Report.

This case will allow the IA Court to expand its jurisprudence on the rights of indigenous peoples in connection with multiple areas that include the processes of formally recognizing ancestral lands and providing deeds to these, and the implementation of standards that recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to the use and enjoyment of their lands, territories, and natural resources when these have been fully or partially occupied by outsiders. It will also be able to develop jurisprudence on state obligations regarding the implementation of public works or concessions that may affect indigenous peoples’ lands, territories, and natural resources. Finally, it will be able to develop jurisprudence on state obligations to prevent deforestation and logging on indigenous people’s lands, territories, and natural resources..

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 035/18