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Argentina high court orders protection of malnourished indigenous group

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Argentina [official website] has ordered [PDF text, in Spanish] the government to provide the indigenous people of the Chaco region with basic necessities while it investigates claims that their land has been illegally sold to commercial farmers. The amparo action, brought by the office of the Defender of the People [official website, press release], alleged that government officials have denied food and medical aid to the Toba, Wichi, and Mocovi tribes, which together claim 60,000 members in the Chaco region. As a result, they are suffering from malnourishment and illnesses such as cholera and tuberculosis, and at least 12 Toba have died in the past few months. The Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ordering the government to provide food, potable water, and methods of communication with and transportation to health facilities. Noting "the necessity, without prejudice to what could be decided at the adequate moment in relation to the competence [of the Court], to adopt measures that tend to guarantee the effectiveness of the rights [claimed] and to avoid the violation of these rights," the Court also ordered a hearing to take place next month.

Since June of this year, members of the Wichi community [Survival International profile] have camped out in front of the headquarters of the Chaco regional government, some undergoing a hunger strike, to demand land rights, education and health care for the indigenous people of the Chaco. According to the protesters, the government has permitted public lands reserved for indigenous groups in the Chaco to be sold to growers of genetically modified soy. In 2003, the Wichi won a legal battle against the government when the Supreme Court ruled that licenses to conduct commercial logging on the Wichi's traditional lands could not be granted without prior consultation with the tribe. Clarin has local coverage, in Spanish.

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