Justice will begin to be heard today for the Kichwa people of Sarayaku, indigenous inhabitants of the gateway to Ecuador’s Amazon. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hear the case filed against Ecuador by the Association of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku, attorney Mario Melo and leading Washington based human rights NGO, the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
According to a press release, Ecuador signed a contract with argentine oil company Compañía General de Combustibles (CGC) for exploring and drilling in an area known as “Bloque 23”, covering part of the Sarayaku’s ancestral territory in 1996. The indigenous community was not consulted, even though it was granted legal ownership of its land in 1992.
Further devastation came to the indigenous community in 2002 and early 2003 as Ecuadorean armed forces and workers forcible made their way into the territory for seismic testing in search of oil, at which time Sarayaku leaders were threatened and harassed for defending their territory.
In 2009 the Washington based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) made recommendations to Ecuador along with protection measures to ensure the integrity of the indigenous community. Ecuador has ignored all measures.
The hearing will include declarations from community members, leaders and others along with James Anaya, United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples who will address indigenous rights with regards to international law.
The hearing will be streamed live on July 6, 2011 (3pm Costa Rica time) and July 7 (9am Costa Rica time):
A brief introduction to the hearing can be found here.