Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Indigenous property rights in Ecuador

A Sarayaku Indian girl in Sarayaku, Ecuador participates in celebrating a July ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), winning a 2003 lawsuit against oil activity on their ancestral lands in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The IACHR court is part of the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States (OAS). In 1996, Ecuador granted an oil contract to an Argentine oil company which affected 60% of Sarayaku territory without consulting the community who opposed the project. Company activities involved land clearing, placement & detonation of explosives, contamination of the water supply, construction of heliports & camps, threats & violence against members of the community, & complete lack of government environmental control. The Ecuadorian government also set up military camps on the land to protect the oil company operations. The company withdrew from Ecuador in 2011 after vigorous protests. The IACHR ruled the government of Ecuador violated Sarayaku property rights & must pay them $1.4 million dollars in compensation. It also ordered Ecuador to remove buried explosives. Ecuador is the fifth largest oil producer in Latin America & heavily dependent on oil revenue & the ruling comes as Ecuador is looking to lease new oil concessions on indigenous lands. A Sarayaku leader said the ruling sets a precedent protecting ancestral territory from incursion by multinational mining companies in collusion with Ecuadorian oligarchs. (Photo by Dolores Ochoa/AP)

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