Press Release

IACHR and SRESCER manifest their concern for oil spills in Peru and urge the State to take action to prevent, mitigate and investigate urgently

July 26, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (SRESCER) became aware of two recent episodes of oil spills in the Norperuano Pipeline, operated by the state enterprise Petro-Perú. The first episode happened on 18 June 2019 in the region of Loreto, and the second case happened by the beginning of July in the Amazon region.

Considering such events, the Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency for 90 days in the affected native communities and agents of the prosecution service started to investigate the event in the affected area. Additionally, the Civil Defense indicated that at least 1,230 native families were affected by the oil spill, causing the need to generate actions to provide drinking water to the population. The IACHR and its SRESCER also became aware that, protesting because of the event, the peoples affected by the oil activity, which would make up 54 indigenous federations in 12 basins, announced an indefinite strike.

The IACHR and SRESCER worry about the existence of new oil spills in the Norperuano Pipeline in less than a month. On this matter, the Commission and its Special Rapporteur remind that in 2017 the IACHR decided to issue a precautionary measure to protect various rights of inhabitants of the communities of Cuninico and San Pedro in Peru for similar situations (Resolution 52/2017). Likewise, both organs remind that on July of the present year, the IACHR undertook an official travel in which they received many documents about life risks, personal integrity and health of the people affected by oil activity, and complaints about its impact on the right to a healthy environment, including direct impacts on the right to water and food.

On 7 May 2018, the IACHR decided to celebrate a public audience about the situation of the human rights of indigenous peoples affected by oil spills in Peru in the context of the 168 Period of Sessions in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The IACHR and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights clearly indicated that States have the obligation to regulate, supervise and oversee the activities under its jurisdiction that may produce significant damage to the environment, including extractive and development corporate activity that affect human rights; conduct analysis of the environmental impact; ensure the establishment of contingency plans as to have security measures and proceedings to minimize the possibility of environmental accidents; as well as mitigate, investigate and remedy human rights damages that may have been produced, and apply the corresponding penalties to the responsible parties. Particularly, in the cases that such corporate activities are susceptible to affect directly the people or indigenous, afro-descendant or tribal communities, it remains the special duty to ensure the participation of those peoples through the respect and assurance of the right of consultation and, in its case, the free prior and informed consent, as well as the elaboration of previous analysis of social and environmental impact and the implementation of benefit to be shared in favor of the rights of these peoples.

In the same way, the IACHR has emphasized that considering the realization of a consultation procedure and, in its case, the obtaining of consent, States must continue to ensure that such authorized activities, plans or projects do not imply and affection on the physical or cultural integrity of the indigenous peoples. In effect, the IACHR warned about the profound impacts that the oil spills may have for indigenous peoples who live in contaminated places and its surroundings. Not having potable water or sewers, indigenous peoples depend on the water that comes from rivers or watersheds for their basic needs and daily activities such as feeding, which generates many risks to the health. On the other hand, oil spills also impact negatively many socio-cultural practices related to the land.

The IACHR and its SRESCER also note that, for being a matter to the State, the activities of the pipeline operating company can generate a direct responsibility to the State of Peru under the Inter-American norms and standards on the subject to the extent in which there are no actions that correspond to its fulfillment. Correspondingly, it should be recalled, that the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises has indicated, “There are situations in which the acts of a public company or the nature of its relationship with the State are clearly related with the obligation of the State to respect […]. In some circumstances, the abuse of those companies against human rights can lead to an infringement of the obligations the State has according to the international law”.

On the same matter, the Special Rapporteurship on ESCER of the IACHR, Soledad García Muñoz, affirms: “The State of Peru must adopt the reasonable measures to prevent human rights violations opposite to the knowledge of a situation of real and immediate risk for one person or a determined group of persons, associated with extraction, exploration or development activities”. Likewise, she highlighted the importance that the State implements the necessary measures to implement or strengthen the supervision and accountability systems of these type of business activities in a coherent way with the obligations of human rights and, in such a way as to have them orientated to prevent a violation of rights of the population in the area of influence in which these activities are taking place. “These obligations are reinforced when the companies are the property of the State such as the present matter”, she added.

In this way, the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Vice-president of the IACHR, the Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, noted, “The States most comply at all times with their duty to assure the human rights against the activities, plans or projects that are being developed in indigenous territories. The Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have emphasized the close linkage of the indigenous people with their traditional territories, such as with their natural resources. That connection is necessary for their physical and cultural survival.

The IACHR and the SRESCER remark that the State must give effective fulfillment to their obligation to investigate, judge, and sanction those whom are responsible for possible violations to the rights to a healthy environment, health, water and alimentation that could be generated in a context of business activities, taking into account, the duty to repair the consequences, both at an individual and collective level, under an integral, participative and cultural perspective. Furthermore, the Commission and Special Rapporteurship urge the State of Peru to take urgent actions to suspend the negative impacts on the environment resulted from the facts described, as well as to involucrate the indigenous communities affected in the processes of decision making that could affect their rights in these contexts.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), which mandate arises from the Chatter of the Organization of American States on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultant organ of the OAS in the matter. The IACHR is integrated by seven independent members that are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS by a personal title, and they do not represent their country of origin or residency.

The SRESCER is an Office of the IACHR, especially crated to support the Commission in the fulfillment of its mandate for promotion and protection of the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the American continent.

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. 184/19