Ecuador violates prior consultation: Amnesty

In its new annual report, Amnesty International charges that Ecuador is not respecting the right of indigenous peoples to prior consultation on development decisions impacting their territories, and that the government has used “unfounded charges of terrorism, sabotage and homicide” against indigenous and campesino leaders to “restrict freedom of assembly.” The report on the state of human rights around the world in 2012 finds that Ecuador has not complied with UN recommendations to “guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent.” (EFE, May 22)

The Ecuadoran constitution adopted in 2008 establishes a broad range of rights for indigenous peoples and nationalities, including the right to prior consultation. But this right has yet to be applied through into legislation, as the bill for a “Law on Consultation with Indigenous Communities, Peoples and Nationalities” is still being studied by the National Assembly.

Article 57, section 7 of the constitution guarantees “free, prior and informed consultation, within a reasonable period of time, on plans and programs for exploration, exploitation and sale of non-renewable resources located on their lands which could have environmental or cultural impacts on them.” The principle of prior consultation is also established in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which Ecuador ratified in 1998, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007.

But recent mining and oil drilling projects on indigenous lands have spurred protests. During Quito protests over new oil lease sales last November, Domingo Peas, a leader of the Achuar indigenous group, charged that “the government says it has carried out prior consultation, but this is not true.” (IPS via UDW, May 6)

A new massacre of the Taromenane inidigenous people in a remote part of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest was reported last month. The massacre of 30 Taromenane men, women and children is reported to have taken place March 29 at the hands of members of the rival Huaorani (Waorani) indigenous group in retaliation for an earlier attack in which an elderly Huaorani couple was apparently killed by Taromenane tribesmen. The reprisal massacre was reported by Cawetipe Yeti, president of the Huaorani Federation of Ecuador, who said it took place within the supposed “untouchable zone” Yasuni National Park, an area of over 700,000 hectares created by the government in 1999.

In 2006, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), called upon Ecuador to “adopt effective measures to protect the lives and personal integrity of the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples,” including “measures necessary to protect the territory inhabited by the beneficiaries from third parties.”

But indigenous leaders charge that oil and other development near the borders of the protected area have resulted in land pressures that fuel conflicts in the zone. Humberto Cholango, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), told Inter-Press Service: “The conflict cannot be reduced to a confrontation between fraternal peoples,” as that would be to “willfully adopt a political misreading of the issue.” Rather, he said, the conflict is “the result of an extractive industries policy that has increased the pressure on indigenous peoples.” (IPS, June 5)