GENEVA (2 June 2016) – Speaking ahead of World Environment Day on Sunday 5 June, three United Nations human rights experts call on every Government to protect environmental and land rights defenders.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox; the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, stress that protecting environmental rights defenders is crucial to protect the environment and the human rights that depend on it.
"Being an environmentalist can be a dangerous, even deadly undertaking. Berta Cáceres, the Goldman Prize winner who was assassinated in Honduras in March 2016, was only one of dozens of environmentalists to be killed in recent months.
Every week, on average, two environmental and land rights activists are killed and the numbers are getting worse, according to civil society figures. The situation is particularly grave in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but it affects every region of the world. It is truly a global crisis.
On this World Environment Day, we want to underscore that environmental human rights defenders should be lauded as heroes for putting themselves at risk to protect the rights and well-being of others. Instead, they are often targeted as if they were enemies of the State.
Conflict, peace and the human rights of Indigenous Peoples Presentation by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace 14-15 May 2016, Columbia University, New York
It is a pleasure for me to be present here today and speak on this important topic. Through many decades of my life as an indigenous activist and an indigenous rights advocate and in my two years as the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, I regrettably have born witness to the tragic consequences armed conflict has on indigenous peoples across the world.
As part of my mandate as Special Rapporteur, I monitor and report publicly on the situation of indigenous peoples through country visits and by sending communications to Governments on specific cases of alleged violations. Through this work, I and my predecessors have engaged numerous situations of armed conflict where we have called for halt of violations and the adoption of protection measures, argued for the need to hold perpetrators accountable and to ensure that victims are provided with reparations.
"The Special Rapporteur is now carrying out further investigations to support the preparation of a second thematic report on international investment and the rights of indigenous peoples."
"This workshop is intended to broaden the range of potential strategies for strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples in this context. It brings together indigenous representatives, legal practitioners, academics, and other stakeholders, each of whose experiences can provide additional perspectives to help advance a more nuanced understanding of, and more creative solutions for, investment and the rights of indigenous peoples."
Workshop on Indigenous Peoples and International Investment. May 12, 2016. Ford Foundation headquarters 320 East 43rd St., New York
In the Special Rapporteur's report to the 70th session of the General Assembly framed her concerns in relation to international bilateral investment treaties (BITs), and investment protection chapters of multilateral and regional free trade agreements, collectively referred to as International Investment Agreements (IIAs).
The report pointed to issues in the current system of IIAs and made a series of recommendations in relation to how they could be addressed to ensure respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.
Building on these recommendations within the framework of her ongoing work in the area of IIAs, the Special Rapporteur laid out her plans to send questionnaires to Member States, indigenous peoples and their organizations and civil society organizations to gain further insight into the issue. The answers to the questionnaires will be invaluable resources to feed into her upcoming thematic reports.
The questionnaire for States, Civil Society Organizations and Indigenous Peoples should preferably be completed in English or Spanish. Responses to the questionnaire should be addressed to the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and sent to email@example.com by 11 May 2016.
Dialogues of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples with indigenous organizations and conservation organizations on the issue of indigenous peoples' rights and conservation activities.
The Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is preparing a report on the issue of the impacts of conservation activities on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to be submitted to the UN General Assembly this year. The Special Rapporteur also intends to transmit her recommendations to the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in Hawaii next September 2016.
The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving input from participants illustrated by concrete examples and she would appreciate further information on those cases to be submitted in electronic format.
* Dialogue with indigenous organizations and representatives. New York, 11th May 2016, from 10 to 13 hours.
GENEVA (11 April 2016) – More than a month after Berta Cáceres' murder, United Nations experts* have reiterated their appeal to the Government of Honduras to provide justice and reveal the truth in the killing of the woman human rights defender, and to ensure the security and protection of all people defending the environment and human rights in the country.
Berta Cáceres, founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations Honduras (COPINH), was shot to death on 3 March 2016 in spite of the 2009 decision by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights requiring Honduras to protect her.
Despite repeated acts of intimidation, including gender-specific attacks, arrests and violence that she suffered over the years, she continued to defend the rights of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, denouncing and opposing the exploitation of indigenous natural resources, especially via the hydroelectric project of 'Agua Zarca'.
"The murder of Berta Cáceres, which is believed to be directly linked to her work and to the fact that she was a woman and indigenous, sadly illustrates an appalling backlash against women human rights defenders and, especially against environmental activists," the experts stated.
In early March, Indigenous Honduran activist Berta Caceres was gunned down in her own home in response to her protests against a dam that threatens to displace hundreds of her people. A few weeks later, another member of her community, Nelson Garcia, was murdered for the same reason.
Berta received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 in recognition of her efforts, and was an inspiration to Indigenous Peoples around the world. During my official visit to Honduras last November, she facilitated my meeting with her people, who told me troubling stories of violence and intimidation in response to their protests.
Despite numerous death threats and emergency protection measures granted by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Honduran government failed to protect Berta, and continues to fail her community. Her family and her community remain in danger, and it is urgent that the government – who has thus far maintained that Berta's murder was a botched robbery – act immediately to protect her family and stem the flow of indigenous blood.
GENEVA (21 March 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, commended the Government of Brazil for a number of measures and initiatives it has taken to ensure the realization of indigenous peoples' rights, but stressed that more much needs to be done to fully respect their rights.
"The pursuit of economic interests in a manner that further subordinates the rights of indigenous peoples creates a potential risk of ethnocidal effects that cannot be overlooked nor underestimated," Ms. Tauli-Corpuz warned at the end of an eleven-day official visit* to Brazil, where she travelled to Brasilia and to the States of Mato Grosso Do Sul, Bahia and Pará.
"In the past, Brazil has been a world leader in the area of demarcation of indigenous peoples' territories," the expert said recalling that her mission was a follow up to the 2008 visit of her predecessor, James Anaya. "However, in the eight years following that visit, there has been an absence of progress in relation to the resolution of long standing issues of key concern to indigenous peoples and to the implementation of the his recommendations."
A Relatora Especial da Organização das Nações Unidas sobre direitos dos povos indígenas Victoria Tauli-Corpuz apresentou, hoje (17/março), em Brasília, comunicado sobre a situação dos povos indígenas encerrando sua visita ao Brasil.
Na avaliação da relatora, apesar das disposições constitucionais exemplares assegurando os direitos dos povos indígenas, o Brasil, nos oito anos que se seguiram à visita de seu predecessor (James Anaya), não avançou na solução de antigas questões de vital importância para os povos indígenas e para a implementação das recomendações do Relator Especial.
Ao contrário, alerta Tauli-Corpuz, "houve retrocessos extremamente preocupantes na proteção dos direitos dos povos indígenas, uma tendência que continuará a se agravar caso não sejam tomadas medidas decisivas por parte do governo para revertê-la". Entre os retrocessos mencionados estão "a Proposta de Emenda à Constituição, PEC 215, e outras legislações que solapam os direitos dos povos indígenas a terras, territórios e recursos".
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, will carry out a visit to Brazil from 7 to 17 March 2016 to identify and assess the main issues currently facing indigenous peoples in the country. She will also follow up on key recommendations made by the previous Special Rapporteur in 2008.
“While the indigenous population in Brazil is relatively small, the challenges they are facing at the moment are overwhelming,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said. “I hope that this visit will help to bring to light some of their concerns and will lead to resolution to some long standing issues.”
“I will assess the implementation of my predecessor’s recommendations, including a follow up to the statutes and amendment proposals of concern to indigenous peoples, demarcation and protection of indigenous lands, impact of large-scale development projects as well as updates related to indigenous health,” the expert noted.
Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, who visits Brazil at the invitation of the Government, will travel to Brasilia and to the States of Mato Grosso Do Sul, Bahia and Pará. She will meet with Government and UN officials, a wide range of civil society and human rights organizations and other non-State actors, including those working on indigenous rights. She will also visit indigenous communities to hear directly from them about their issues and concerns.
GENEVA (4 March 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today strongly condemned the murder in Honduras of human rights defender Berta Cáceres, founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations Honduras (COPINH) and leader of the Lenca community of Río Blanco.
The murder of Ms. Cáceres took place earlier this week despite precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for her protection after an increase in the number of death threats she had received for years because of her work denouncing violations of human rights against indigenous peoples.
The Special Rapporteur met Ms. Cáceres during her first official visit* to Honduras in November 2015, when the indigenous leader facilitated meetings with the Lenca community. At Río Blanco, the UN expert received information about the community's opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam which had led to killings, harassment and threats to members of the community.
"It is very likely that this killing is linked to her work in defense of human rights of the indigenous Lenca people," Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said, recalling that Ms. Cáceres had received the Goldman Prize in 2015 as an environmental activist in recognition of her work against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam.
GENEVA (3 March 2016) – Today, a group of United Nations human rights experts called on the United States to increase its efforts to address environmental threats to human rights.
Recent outrage over lead-contaminated water in the town of Flint, Michigan, has drawn international scrutiny to the toxic threats faced by children, particularly in poor, African-American, minority, and Native American communities, in the US.
The group of UN experts on hazardous wastes, health, water and sanitation, indigenous peoples, minorities, and racism described the issue as one of human rights, and urged the US to protect the rights of children and others who are most at-risk from pollution and toxic chemicals.
Their appeal comes as US presidential candidates are debating issues confronting Flint and other communities at risk this week in Michigan.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the children of Flint and to the countless other victims of lead poisoning in the United States and around the world", the UN experts said. "Lead poisoning is preventable. No parent should have to endure the mental torment that will haunt parents in Flint, and no child should be denied the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."
GENEVA (1st March 2016) - A group of United Nations human rights experts* today welcomed the verdicts for crimes against humanity issued by a Guatemalan Court against two former military officials.
In its decision, the Court ruled that the sexual violence perpetrated against Q'eqchi indigenous women was part of a broader control and domination plan by the Guatemalan Army, in the context of the counterinsurgency policy of the 1980s.
"It is a historic moment. This is the first case under national courts in Guatemala that addresses, as main element, the sexual violence committed against indigenous women during the internal armed conflict, and recognizes it as a crime against humanity," the experts stressed.
Former army commander Steelmer Reyes Girón and former military commissioner Heriberto Valdez Asij were respectively condemned last week to sentences of 120 years and 240 years in prison, for their perpetration of crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence and murder, in the case of Reyes Girón, and sexual violence and enforced disappearance, in the case of Valdez Asij.
The Court noted that the offenses were committed under a strategy aimed at eliminating the men who sought to claim their collective right to indigenous lands and forcing their widows to serve the military, including sexually. The victims were subjected to sexual violence, sexual slavery, domestic slavery, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The Court also recognized the impact on the entire community of these abuses committed against women.
"The ability of indigenous peoples to continue and strengthen their own systems of justice administration is an integral component of their rights to self-governance, self-determination and access to justice recognized under international human rights instruments adhered to by Colombia and most States in Latin America. To implement these rights and guarantee indigenous peoples' access to justice, an intercultural dialogue and understanding between indigenous and State justice authorities is vital. Seminars of this type represent important worthwhile efforts to that end."
"Human rights, indigenous jurisdiction and access to justice: Towards intercultural dialogue and respect". Presentation by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, for the International seminar on investigative techniques and indigenous issues; Bogotá, Colombia, February 24, 2016.
"The current litigation related to the Sepur Zarco case in Guatemala represents an important historical moment to highlight the need for guaranteeing access to justice for indigenous women who have been one of the most vulnerable sectors in Guatemala and other places in the world."
"In this paper, I will discuss relevant international human rights standards on the rights of indigenous peoples including their right to access to justice, of the need to understand the cultural and collective dimensions of rights violations, the racialized, gendered and sexualized violence against indigenous women, and some recommendations for reparations and reforms to address these forms of violence against indigenous women."
Presentation by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, for the Seminar on "Experiences in litigation of cases of Violence against Women and Women's Access to Justice in Central America" - Guatemala, February 23-26, 2016.
Statement to the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. Twenty-Ninth Session, Geneva, February 15, 2016.
"Thank you very much for inviting me to this 29th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore."
"Misappropriation of the genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples continues unabated and indigenous peoples are put in the difficult situation of tracking and prosecuting cases of misappropriation of their knowledge. It is in this light that I urge WIPO Member States to speedily conclude the IGC negotiations and adopt a legally binding treaty that would provide effective protections for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over their genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.
As the independent expert of the UN Human Rights Council focusing on the rights of indigenous peoples, it is within my mandate to provide an analysis of how the human rights of indigenous peoples’ to their genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and related intellectual creations are being respected and protected."
OTTAWA / GENEVA (1 February 2016) – Six experts* from the United Nations and the Inter-American human rights systems today urged the Government of Canada to fully address the root causes of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in the country.
The human rights experts made their appeal at a key meeting in Ottawa with the three Canadian Ministers charged with designing the official national inquiry into the murder or disappearance of nearly 1,200 indigenous women and girls over the past three decades in Canada.
“The inquiry must be participatory, addressing the root causes of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the experts told the Ministers for Justice, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and the Status of Women. “Furthermore, it should be based on a solid appreciation that the human rights violations that indigenous women experience require adequate, effective and clear responses.”
Implicancias del Acuerdo Estratégico Transpacífico de Asociación Económica (TPP) para los pueblos indígenas. Entrevista a la Relatora Especial ONU sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, realizada por Alejandro Parellada Miembro del Grupo Internacional de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas (IWGIA).
A raíz de la actual negociación de uno de los principales acuerdos de libre comercio, el Acuerdo Estratégico Transpacífico de Asociación Económica (TPP, en inglés), ¿cuál es su opinión sobre el impacto de este tipo de acuerdo sobre los pueblos indígenas?
Muchos de los acuerdos internacionales de inversión y de los tratados de libre comercio son negociados sin tomar en cuenta los derechos humanos en general y sin ninguna participación de los pueblos indígenas. Así que éste es uno de los problemas principales que enfrentamos.
Uno de los principios centrales de estos acuerdos es que tienen una cláusula de no discriminación en cuanto a los inversores, que establece que no se puede discriminar entre un inversor local y uno internacional, lo que implica la liberalización de todas las leyes para otorgar mayores derechos a las compañías y, lamentablemente, en muchos casos minando los derechos de los pueblos indígenas.
En el caso específico del Acuerdo Transpacífico, no hubo información sobre el contenido de las negociaciones, y sólo hace muy poco que se empezó a conocer su contenido. Se trata de un acuerdo para la total liberalización de inversiones y que, entre otros temas, genera serias amenazas en el área de derechos de propiedad intelectual. Con el pretexto de crear nuevas fuentes de trabajo, me temo que con este acuerdo se debilitan los derechos humanos. Si bien todavía estamos en la fase de su ratificación, podría afirmar que este acuerdo será una seria amenaza para los derechos de los pueblos indígenas.
GENEVA (17 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today expressed deep concern at the lack of consultation and the reduced protections to the Sami indigenous people in the current draft law on the Finnish Forest and Parks Service (Metsähallitus) to regulate the management of State owned lands.
“The new draft bill presented to the Finnish Parliament earlier this month no longer contains valuable safeguards for the Sami people’s rights to traditional livelihoods, lands, territories and resources, which had been included in the previous draft approved in 2014,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz warned.
“I hope that the draft law will consider that the Sami Parliament and the Skolt Sami Village Council have had limited opportunities to take part in this process which is contrary to article 19 of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples* which Finland has endorsed,” she said.
According to the new bill, most of the Sami Homeland will be transferred to a new State owned company that has yet to be established. This new company will have the responsibility for all logging carried out on State owned lands in Finland, including in the Sami Homeland region.