Versión en español disponible aquí

Commissioners: Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Dinah Shelton Petitioners: Red Jurídica Amazónica / Fundación Pachamama / Centro Lianas / Instituto Regional de Derechos; Humanos (INREDH) / Centro de Derechos; Humanos de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del; Ecuador / Confederación de Nacionalidades; Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) / Confederación; de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía; Ecuadorian; (CONFENIAE) / Pueblo Indigent; Kichwa de Sarayaku State: Ecuador The thematic hearing on Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Prior Consultation in Ecuador, which took place on Monday, October 28, 2013, did not focus on a specific case, but rather on the substantive right to consultations for indigenous people in Ecuador. While the Ecuadorian government was invited and given proper notice of the hearing, the State of Ecuador left a note at 10:06 a.m. with the Commission’s Executive Secretary stating that it would not be attending the hearing. Despite Ecuador’s absence, the hearing proceeded as scheduled.
Photo Credit: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The petitioners, speaking on behalf of their organizations, focused on the International Labor Organization Convention Number 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO 169), which was established in 1989 and codifies the right of indigenous people to be consulted before a government grants land concessions for projects which invade indigenous lands. In a recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) case, Sarayaku v. Ecuador, the Court ruled in favor of indigenous peoples’ right to consultation before industrial projects are carried out on their land. Just days before the release of the IACtHR ruling, however, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa issuedExecutive Decree 1247. The Decree states that, contrary to ILO 169, the goal of consultation is not consent, but participation. The final decision, the decree states, lies with the superior powers, even if the indigenous people reject the project. The petitioners next showed a video of a meeting where indigenous people were being consulted about a pending land concession. In the video, people were asked why they were there. They all responded that they were there for a Parent Teacher Association meeting and not for a consultation hearing. The petitioners wished to use this video to demonstrate that the state failed to consult indigenous people about land grants, though reports were compiled stating that they had been. Those reports, the petitioners claimed, were a sham. The petitioners also contended that the consultation meetings were not conducted in a language the indigenous people understood, and that the meeting organizers threatened the indigenous people with contacting law enforcement, should the indigenous people not comply with the land grants being sought. Furthermore, petitioners argued that the state often did not contact a representative authorized to consent to land grants and that these failures are manipulative tactics employed by the government to convince outside actors that it is compliant with ILO 169. Additionally, argued the petitioners, when prospective project organizers conduct seismic testing they do so without prior notice. Often times, once the testing is completed, the project organizers leave explosive devises on the indigenous land. The petitioners asked that the IACHR request the Ecuadorian government submit a report regarding their prior consultation of indigenous people before granting land concessions within their territory, and to make a site visit to investigate their claims. After the petitioners were given the opportunity to present their case, the commissioners asked them questions regarding their testimony. Dinah Shelton, Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People, and Ecuador asked the petitioners to define prior informed consultation and asked when consent is required for a new project to begin and when it is not. She also wanted to know if Decree 1247 was considered law, and, if not, what the legal authority was on the matter of prior consultation in Ecuador. Commissioner Rosa Maria Ortiz asked for a more clear idea of what Decree 1247 meant for the indigenous people. She also wanted to know whether the petitioners were upset with the wording of Decree1247, or if they were upset by its implementation. The respondents answered the questions by stating that Ecuador’s constitution under article 57 clearly states that the rights of indigenous peoples must be understood in line with international standards. They wish for ILO169 to be the law followed by the Ecuadorian government, as it is mandated in the Constitution. The Commission stated that they would continue to monitor the situation in Ecuador regarding the rights of indigenous peoples, and that they would welcome any new information that could be provided by either the petitioners or the Ecuadorian government.