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Regional human rights court rules Ecuador violated rights of indigenous Sarayaku

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on Wednesday ruled [order, PDF, in Spanish] that Ecuador violated the rights of the Sarayaku Indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon when the state allowed the Argentine oil company CGC to encroach on Sarayaku traditional lands in the early 2000s without the Indigenous People's consultation. The court found that the Ecuadorian state violated the community's right to be consulted, as well as their community property rights and their cultural identity. The IACHR also found Ecuador responsible for putting the lives of the Sarayaku at grave risk after the oil company placed over 3,000 pounds of high-grade explosives on nearly 40,000 acres of the Indigenous People's territory. The Sarayaku were represented partly by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) [advocacy website; press release], a non-governmental, non-profit organization that offers advice and free legal representation to victims of human rights abuses. Following the ruling CEJIL announced that "Ecuador and all other signatories of the American Convention [on Human Rights] (ACHR) [materials] must establish processes of free, prior and informed consultation before initiating any projects that could affect either the territories of indigenous peoples and communities or other rights essential for their survival." Amnesty International [advocacy website; press release] welcomed the ruling and called on Ecuador to comply with all IACHR orders, while urging other states in the region to take immediate and decisive action to remedy the situation of hundreds of other Indigenous Peoples who face problems similar to those of the Sarayaku.

Earlier this week Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] announced that his country would withdraw from the IACHR [JURIST report] after the court concluded that the prison conditions of a man convicted in multiple bombings were a violation of his human rights. In 2011 Chavez also criticized the IACHR [JURIST report] for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, allowing him to run for office despite a separate court ruling barring him from the election. In March the IACHR ruled that the Supreme Court of Chile [official website] violated a Chilean woman's right to equality and non-discrimination when it took away her children on the basis of her sexual orientation [JURIST report]. The decision marked the first time the IACHR affirmed that discrimination based on sexual orientation violates international law.

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