Rapporteurs take up indigenous rights issues

16 May 2016

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste, Bastuk Tuncak, and the Inter-American Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Eguiguren, all met in Lima last week to take part in an international seminar on indigenous peoples and international trade.

During the seminar, Tauli-Corpuz expressed the importance of protecting indigenous peoples from certain clauses in international trade treaties. She observed that more often than not indigenous peoples are excluded from trade negotiations and receive no information about the possible effects that such treaties may have on their rights. “Many of the effects that these treaties bring is [to] extract natural resources, like wood, minerals or oil, which compromises the territories of communities” she is quoted as saying.

For his part, Eguiguren, formerly Peru’s justice minister and ambassador to Spain, remarked that all states must commit to provide special protection for indigenous peoples, calling on governments to provide meaningful mechanisms to protect indigenous rights. He highlighted the fact that many communities and/or organizations representing them now feel the need to file complaints before international forums or in the countries where a given company has its head offices, rather than seeking redress in their own countries where human rights violations have taken place.

Tuncak stressed the difficulties facing communities seeking redress over contamination because of the way in which trade treaties protect the industries involved.

Tauli-Corpuz used her visit to Lima to also meet the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples of the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, to which a large number of Peruvian indigenous organisations are affiliates. She listened to their concerns in three key areas: prior consultation, land rights and titling, and the rights of communities living in isolation.

With regard to consultation, indigenous organisations highlighted the legal difficulties contained in the Law of Consultation (Ley de Consulta) and its detailed regulations, as well as the challenges encountered in their implementation. The groups provided detailed information on consultations held so far in the areas of oil and mining.

They also brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur specific cases where there had been a lack of consultation around projects affecting indigenous rights. These included mining concessions in the Cordillera del Cóndor along Peru’s northern border, and oil concessions in Block 116 in the provinces of Condorcanqui and Bagua in the Amazon region.

In 2013 indigenous organisations decided to submit a judicial appeal over the omission of any consultation. Appeals made to the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Vice-ministry for Intercultural Affairs had been denied because the exploration contracts had been signed years before the Ley de Consulta came into force. However, indigenous organisations maintained that Peru has an international responsibility to ensure adequate consultation as a signatory to ILO Convention 169.

For its part, the Coordinadora’s Working Group reminded government authorities that indigenous peoples need to be informed of any international trade agreements that may affect their rights, and that states need to find ways to seek and take account of the views of indigenous peoples about such potential impacts.

It also expressed concern about the difficulties encountered in securing recognition and titles for ancestral territories, highlighting current concerns about the situation facing indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. It pointed to the lack of information about such communities and the lack of any strategies to counter or mitigate the negative effects of natural resources extraction.

Bastuk Tuncak also used the opportunity to meet with several indigenous organisations and to listen to their concerns about recent oil spills in the Amazon and Loreto regions. These stressed the lack of any adequate response to remedy the damages caused and adequate assistance to the families affected. According to OEFA, the government agency responsible for overseeing environmental impacts, both spills came about because of “the deterioration of the tubing caused by external corrosion” for which Petroperú, the state oil company, was responsible. Petroperú has been reluctant to accept responsibility.

The NGOs Derecho Ambiente Recursos Naturales (DAR) and the Instituto de Defensa Legal y Desarrollo Sostenible (IDLADS) also raised the issue of Law 30230 which weakens the sanctioning powers of OEFA. In the case of the oil spills, they said that OEFA could only order Petroperú to take corrective measures and that it has only managed to issue punitive sanctions after Petroperú failed to implement the corrective measures called for. According to DAR, for Petroperú to be sanctioned, it falls to the affected population to prove Petroperú’s failure to monitor and maintain the pipeline in good condition.

Bastuk Tuncak has said he will follow up these cases with the Peruvian authorities and request a formal visit.

For the text of the various press releases, see

For more information about Block 116, see

And for the oil spills:

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