Participants: Carlos Antonio Poc (indigenous rights attorney representing several Mayan indigenous leaders), and Arnoldo Ian (member of Special Defendants Group of the Quiche Indigenous Group). Representatives of the State of Guatemala also attended the hearing.
Commissioners: Commissioner Dinah Shelton, Luz Patricia Mejía, and María Silvia Guillen
The petitioners recalled the acts of violence and forced displacement suffered by indigenous groups during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala. While the Guatemalan Constitution guarantees protection of ancestral land of indigenous communities, to this day, Guatemala has not demarcated any land as ancestral, but has only recognized individual property rights to peasants. The petitioners mentioned that Guatemala has not established a procedure of recognition of ancestral land in accordance to the existing Constitutional provisions. In this regard, several communities face violations to their rights due to false registrations of land and the granting of extraction licenses to multinational companies without consultation. Furthermore, the Protected Areas Law prohibits granting property rights over such areas, even though indigenous communities had been living there long before its enactment. The petitioners requested for the due property titles to be granted to the communities.
The representatives of the State referred to the legal framework existing in Guatemala to promote property rights of indigenous peoples, administrative procedures available for this purpose, the ratification of ILO Covenant 169 on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its constitutional hierarchy within national legislation, and the plans and projects carried out to recognize indigenous groups and resettle the victims of the armed conflict. The State further mentioned that in case of disputes, mechanisms of conciliation and arbitration are available.
The Commissioners stressed their preoccupation about the eviction of indigenous peoples from their lands, and the impediments that the Protected Areas Law may impose in balancing the rights to ancestral property and the protection of biodiversity. They recalled the special obligations of States to recognize indigenous property rights over ancestral lands, in accordance with the existing jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court.