Human Rights & Environment Program
For more information about CIEL's Human Rights & Environment Program, contact Marcos Orellana.
Human Rights & Environment Program Current Activities : Advocacy and Investigations
CIEL's purpose is to share knowledge and build the capacity of civil society, especially in developing countries and to promote positive change. All people need the legal tools to ensure that their voices matter. This is especially true for indigenous and other local communities that are often marginalized by legal, political, and economic forces.
Cacataibo Case (Peru): Impacts of Hydrocarbon Exploration on Isolated Indigenous Peoples
CIEL, Instituto del Bien Común (IBC), and FENACOCA- the Federation of Indigenous Cacataibo Communities (Federación Nativa de Comunidades Cacataibo) are working together to safeguard the rights of the Catataibo Indigenous Peoples threatened by oil exploration in the Peruivan Amazon, particularly the Cacataibo indigenous peoples in isolation. The Cacataibo Indigenous peoples in isolation live in the areas superimposed by the Block 107 oil and gas exploration concession in the Cordillera Azul region in the central Peruvian Amazon.
There is overwhelming historical evidence that shows that forced contact with indigenous peoples in isolation results in serious illnesses and numerous deaths. Yet, despite the high risk of forced contact and life-threatening diseases, the Peruvian government approved oil and gas exploration in the traditional territories of the indigenous Cacataibo peoples in August 2007. The Canadian company, Petrolífera Petroleum Del Peru S.A.C., has recently begun laying down lines of explosives to conduct seismic testing, as part of its exploration for oil and gas in Block 107.
In December 2007, FENACOCA, IBC and CIEL requested precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to protect the lives, health and physical integrity of Cacataibo indigenous peoples living in isolation in the Peruvian Amazon. This request highlights the serious and imminent threats to the lives and physical integrity of the Cacataibo indigenous peoples in isolation due to the oil and gas exploration in their traditional territories. We are looking to the IACHR to request that the government of Peru take precautionary measures to protect the lives and safety of these indigenous peoples. In particular, the government from Peru and the company Petrolífera Petroleum Del Peru S.A.C. should refrain from conducting seismic testing in the traditional territories of the Cacataibo indigenous peoples. For more information please visit: CIEL's Cacataibo Case page.
San Mateo Case (Peru): Impacts of Mining on Human Rights
In 2004, the IACHR accepted CIEL's request for precautionary measures to protect the life and health of the members of the San Mateo community affected by toxic waste from mining operations, which led to the removal of the toxic waste that had been dumped in the community. This is a landmark ruling that recognizes the linkages between environment and human rights. In summer 2006, CIEL presented its brief on the merits of the case, which documented the violation of, inter alia, the civil and political rights to personal integrity, life, and the rights of the child.
We also intervened when mine workers threatened to harm and kill Margarita Pérez Anchiraico, president of the Comité de Afectados por la Minería en Máyoc (Committee of People Affected by Mining in Máyoc), who had participated in a Commission hearing that year. Since the death threats began, CIEL has denounced the threats and requested that the Commission call on the Peruvian government to take the necessary measures to protect the life and safety of Margarita and other human rights defenders. In response, Peru has provided police protection to Margarita. CIEL and our partners will continue to do everything we can to support community members of San Mateo de Huanchor; we also continue to monitor the implementation of the ruling.
For more information, please visit: CIEL's San Mateo page.
CIEL has worked with two partner organizations, Earthjustice and the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), to prepare a human rights petition on behalf of the Inuit; we filed the petition with the IACHR in December 2005. The petition explains in detail why the devastating impacts of global warming in the Arctic violate the human rights of the Inuit, as defined by the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
In November 2006, we were informed by the Commission that it had decided not to proceed with the petition at present. Even though the IACHR did not proceed with the petition, it has helped change the tenor of the debate about global warming by introducing a moral and human rights dimension. Whereas the debate was previously limited almost exclusively to economic and environmental impacts, it is now common to hear climate protection and avoidance of its damaging consequences characterized as a human right. Additionally, the extensive media attention given to the petition helped to bring pressure to bear on the U.S. Government, and many legal, academic, and environmental organizations also took note of the petition.
For more information, please visit CIEL's Inuit Case page
Hydro-Electric Projects and the Forceful Resettlement of Indigenous Peoples
On behalf of the Pehuenche families in Chile, CIEL filed a petition in December 2002 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking reparations because their human rights were being violated by the construction of several dams along the Bio-Bio River. The largest of these dams, the Ralco dam, would displace 700 Indians, the last group of Mapuche/Pehuenche Indians who continue their traditional lifestyle on ancestral lands.
CIEL's intervention at the Inter-American Commission forced the Chilean government to negotiate a precedent-setting settlement. This settlement will be monitored by the Commission and involves: A promise to attempt to reform Chile's constitution to secure the protection of indigenous rights; compensation directly to the displaced families, including land, educational scholarships, and US$350,000 per extended family; and the creation of a Municipality whereby the Mapuche/Pehuenche will have local control over its ancestral territory.
To read an account of the case in context, see CIEL's Issue Brief on the Ralco Case. The legal documents of the case are also available below:
Read more about our previous advocacy efforts.
To receive CIEL's monthy newletter, click here.