N° 44/07




            Washington, August 9, 2007 — On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Paolo Carozza, issues a special call to the OAS Member States to recognize and respect the right of indigenous peoples to their identity and their territories. The Rapporteur urges the States to undertake efforts to improve the level of compliance with the recommendations of the IACHR and with the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in cases in which indigenous peoples are victims.


            The importance of recognizing and respecting indigenous peoples’ cultural identity, which is based on the close ties they have to their ancestral territories and resources, is rooted in the fact that those territories are their principal means of subsistence and constitute a central element of their worldview. The IACHR has acknowledged and appreciated the actions undertaken and implemented by many States that have legally recognized the traditional territories of indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, there remain significant weaknesses in actions geared toward protection, which leave indigenous peoples vulnerable especially to the interests of third parties in exploiting the natural resources located in indigenous territories.


            On another matter, the entities that belong to the system for protecting human rights have developed a progressive jurisprudence that recognizes the collective rights of indigenous peoples. The Inter-American Commission has expressed its concern regarding the difficulties in securing State implementation of its recommendations and its  precautionary measures in cases in which indigenous peoples are beneficiaries, as well as compliance with the judgments of the Inter-American Court. In that regard, the Rapporteur urges the States to redouble their efforts to give effect to the decisions of the Inter-American institutions that affect indigenous peoples. In so doing, they not only recognize, protect and make reparations for specific groups of persons, but also respect in a special way the life and human diversity that is an inherent part of the societies of the Americas.


            The IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continues to advise the President of the Working Group charged with preparing the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and urges the States to maximize their efforts to approve this declaration, which can  become an important instrument for recognizing and protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.


            Protecting and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples is of primary importance to the IACHR. As early as 1972, the Commission held that, based on historical reasons and moral and humanitarian principles, the States have a sacred commitment to give special protection to indigenous peoples. In 1990, it created the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in order to attend to the needs of indigenous peoples of the Americas who are especially exposed to human rights violations, as well as to strengthen, advance and systematize the work of the Inter-American Commission in this area. The Rapporteur, on behalf of the Commission, will continue to closely monitor developments on this issue throughout the Americas.


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