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UN rights expert urges Panama to protect land of indigenous peoples

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya [official website] encouraged the Panamanian government on Monday to strengthen the rights of its indigenous people [press release, in Spanish; UN News Centre report] and ensure they are allowed to preserve their land and autonomy. Anaya's call comes in response to allegations by indigenous peoples regarding the presence of private settlers, farmers, tourists, miners, illegal loggers and other third parties. Anaya urged the Panamanian government to cooperate with indigenous authorities to control and stop these invasions on indigenous land, including territories whose official recognition and demarcation is still pending.

The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing issue in recent years. In February 2012 Anaya urged the Panamanian government to open a dialogue [JURIST report] with its indigenous people in an effort to alleviate tension and reduce violence. In December 2010 US President Barack Obama announced that the US will support [JURIST report] the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [text]. The declaration, adopted [JURIST report] in 2007, is a non-binding treaty outlining the global human rights of approximately 370 million indigenous people and banning discrimination against them. The US was one of four member states that originally opposed adopting the treaty, citing concerns that its text conflicted with their countries' own laws, among other contentions. The US is the last member state of those in opposition to sign the declaration. In August 2010 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments to work to improve the human rights conditions [JURIST report] of the world's indigenous peoples.

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