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Argentina must protect rights of indigenous groups: UN expert

UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights [official mandate], James Anaya [academic profile], on Thursday urged Argentina to strengthen protection of human rights, rights to education and land ownership for indigenous groups as well as to establish sorely needed dialogue with government. His comments came after an 11-day visit to Argentina [press release] including meetings with both indigenous communities and government authorities [UN News Centre report] in Buenos Aires. Focusing on land disputes between indigenous groups and excavating firms, Anaya explained:

A central preoccupation expressed by indigenous leaders during my visit was the lack of judicial security over their land ownership rights and in particular the various problems and delays they face regarding their properties ... [and a] lack of dialogue and participation with the affected indigenous groups before undertaking such projects, and the lack of their role in the decision-making process, as well as of sharing the benefits of the projects resulting from use of their lands.
Anaya is scheduled to give a full report next year to the UN Human Rights Council.

The government of Argentina has ongoing issues with indigenous communities and currently has no mechanism for dialogue. In June 2007, the Supreme Court of Argentina [official website, in Spanish] ordered the government to provide basic necessities to indigenous peoples [JURIST report] of the Chaco region while it investigated 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, in Spanish], 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, resulting in malnourishment illnesses such as cholera and tuberculosis and, in some cases, death. From June 2007, members of the Wichi community [Survival International profile] camped out in front of the Chaco regional government headquarters, some undergoing a hunger strike, to demand land rights, education and health care for the indigenous people of the Chaco. According to 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.

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