Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rosa María Ortiz, Paulo Vannuchi

Petitioners: Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA) / Amazon Watch / Asamblea de los Pueblos del Sur / Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) / Asamblea de los Pueblos Indígenas del Istmo de Tehuantepec en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio (APIITDTT) / Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) / Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR) / Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)/ Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña ‘Tlachinollan’/ Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres Chihuahua / Centro Mexicano del Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) / Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH) / Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU) /Comisión Mexicana para la Defensa y la Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) / Comité de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) / Comunidad de Derechos Humanos Bolivia / Conectas Direitos Humanos / Comisión Colombiana de Juristas (CCJ) / Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR) / Fundación para el Debido Proceso Legal (DPLF) / Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH) / Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina y el Caribe (FAU-AL) / Forum Suape / Global Witness / Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos / International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) / JASS Asociadas por lo Justo (JASS) / Justiça Global / Justiça nos Trilhos / Laboratorio de Paz / Movilización de Mujeres Afrodescendientes del Norte del Cauca por el Cuidado de la Vida en los Territorios Ancestrales / Peace Brigades International (PBI) / Plataforma Internacional Contra la Impunidad / Proceso de Comunidades Negras en Colombia (PCN) / Proyecto de Derechos Económicos Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC) / Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights / Terra Mater / La Unidad de Protección a Defensores y Defensoras Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) / Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social (UNITAS) / Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Sociedad

State: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru

Petitioners, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), on October 19, 2015, explained how extractive industries directly affect 3.5 billion people who live in gas, oil, or mineral rich countries. Petitioners were human rights defenders (HRDs) and citizens from Central and South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Chile. They presented stories of violence and corruption perpetrated by extractive corporations in the Americas. Some of the Petitioners are fighting for their livelihoods because corporations are attempting to take their land. The Petitioners told personal accounts of what happened when they attempted to defend their rights against extractive corporations and government corruption.

The Carajas Mine in Brazil is the largest iron ore mine in the world. Danilo Chammas, a human rights defender from Brazil, and the Petitioner representing Justiça nos Trilhos, informed the Commission that the day-to-day operations of the mine have harmed more then one hundred communities. Mr. Chammas reported that HRDs have been tortured for protesting land grabbing carried out by the extraction companies. He explained that extraction companies set up surveillance teams to monitor HRDs. As a result, HRDs have been ambushed and even assassinated by security forces. Mr. Chammas described one instance of assassinations, which took place on April 26, 2015. Farmers in the area have also been subjected to violence. One such farmer witnessed the death of her husband in front of police who did nothing stop it. Mr. Chammas reported that corporations frequently carry out attacks against civilians with impunity. He asked the Commission to protect the HRDs who are stuck in this conflict.

Another Petitioner, a Colombian HRD named Isabella, stated that over the past two years, over two hundred people have been disappeared from the area in which the extractive companies operate. She also stated that the eviction rate in the area has rapidly increased, and forced evictions pose a great threat to local residents. Isabella explained that the law regarding when evictions can and cannot be enforced is unclear. As in Brazil, the extraction corporations in Chile have deployed private security to target individuals who speak out against alleged violations. The former director of the National Protection Unit in Colombia fostered peace meetings between corporations and human rights organizations. Unfortunately, Isabella explained, the current director does not acknowledge that these meetings ever took place and refuses to help the HRDs. Isabella asserted that until this corrupt capitalist model changes, the environment and its people will continue to be destroyed by the extractive industry.

A woman from the Mapuche territory in Chile described her family’s experience. She explained that the government and private security forces attacked her for protesting the construction of a road across the waterway in her village. The government plans to construct additional roads across other waterways in her area, and she said that she will continue to stand up for her rights even if it costs her life. She stated that her house has been burned down multiple times, and her mother was beaten and raped for opposing environmental destruction. She asked the Commission to draw attention to the HRDs who are standing up to extraction companies that are violating human rights.

Petitioners called on the Commission to help the people standing up to exploitive extraction companies. Petitioners also urged the Commission to help stop the companies from committing human rights violations including violence and land grabbing.

The Commission agreed with the Petitioners’ assertion that the governments of these countries are at fault. The Commission stated that it is aware of what has been occurring in these countries and it will continue to monitor the areas for human rights violations.

Author’s Legal Analysis

Many of the human rights violations at issue here, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and forced displacement, violate jus cogens, or preemptory norms. Preemptory norms are nonderrogable human rights that are generally accepted by the international community. The American Convention on Human Rights, which all the states involved in this case have ratified, protects the right to life under Article 4, the right to humane treatment under Article 5, the right to property under Article 21, free expression under Article 13, and free assembly under Article 15. Thus, the States in this case may be violating their obligations under international customary law and the American Convention on Human Rights.

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