Kichwas of San Martin go to constitutional tribunal over land claims

26 October 2019

As a last resort to securing rights to their territorial lands in the northern region of San Martin, Kichwa leaders have lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Tribunal. They are challenging the legality of a conservation area of 150,000 hectares set up by the regional government that overlaps Kichwa territory.

After many years of applying in vain for land titles to the regional government, the Kichwa communities’ lands were demarcated simultaneously with those of a protected area in 2005. One of these communities, Nuevo Lamas, found that the title it eventually received gave it only 2% of its traditional territory, the remainder being awarded only “in use”. 

The Kichwa took the case to the regional court only to have it rejected in 2018 on the grounds that it lacked merit and that “all natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable are the property of the Nation, and the State has sovereignty over their use”.

The recent Regional Pan Amazon report on the situation of the human rights of indigenous peoples refers to this case commenting that “protracted and inconclusive land titling processes, alongside the proliferation of protected areas, has also significantly undermined indigenous territorial rights”.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) also mentions that there was no prior consultation, although information was obtained from people of the area for the environmental impact assessment. See IAHCR report (2019) p 77). 

With the support of the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), the Kichwa’s appeal to the Constitutional Tribunal will question the unconstitutional manner in which the territories of indigenous communities are titled, referencing IAHCR standards regarding indigenous property.

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