Aug 19, 2019

The 10-year Anniversary of the Case's Admission

Ten years ago this week, on August 14th, the case of La Oroya was admitted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. For ten years, the petitioners have been waiting to receive the Merits Report on their case, which will conclude whether the facts of the case constitute human rights violations.

For ten years, their bodies contaminated by heavy metals, they have been seeking justice.

In honor of this unfortunate anniversary, the petitioners in the case, along with those of us who support them, drafted public letters to the Commissioners.

The letters are part of a strategy to pressure the Commission to issue the Report in favor of the people of La Oroya and, in doing so, move the process of justice forward to the Inter-American Court.

The La Oroya case is emblematic of the problem of widespread toxic metal contamination in Peru, so a Merit Report in our favor would create an important antecedent. It would contribute to guaranteeing the rights of many affected communities across the country, which have been grouped together in the National Platform of People Affected by Heavy Metals. 

What follows is an excerpt from the letter written by our clients, the affected residents of La Oroya:

We came before this International body to find justice, yet after all these years we still haven´t found a concrete solution to our situation.

We have provided the Commission, year after year, with detailed information regarding our health, the way our lives have been affected by the actions and omissions of the State, and the fact that today we still don´t have effective treatment for our health conditions.

It’s urgent that the Commission advance in processing our case to ensure effective access to health, a healthy environment, and justice.

The current precautionary measures… that have been active for 12 years have proven insufficient to guarantee effective treatment that would allow us to overcome the illnesses we´ve suffered for decades.

Today we know our bodies are contaminated, but we still don´t know what the correct treatment is for our recovery.

Our day-to-day situation worsens, not only from the poisoning but also from the attacks we suffer from members of our own community because of our defense. They accuse us of not allowing the reactivation of the metal smelter, despite the fact that it threatens the health of the entire community, because for some it is the only economic option available in La Oroya.

Our case demonstrates the situation of heavy metal poisoning that is affecting people throughout the country.

A timely and adequate statement from the Commission would help to not only transform our reality and guarantee our rights, but would also open new paths toward justice and a healthy environment for the thousands of people currently affected by toxic metals in Peru.”

We have submitted this and two letters of support to the Commission, which we invite you to read in full on our website.

The outreach strategy that accompanies the official letters includes a social media campaign and a public webinar honoring the 10th anniversary of the case.

As we continue to seek justice, we are proud to support the affected people of La Oroya and uplift their voices through the design and implementation of awareness campaigns.

Thank you for listening to their message, and for your ongoing support.

Links:

Jul 1, 2019

Taking steps to protect parrotfish

Blue damselfish / by damedias, Caribbean sea
Blue damselfish / by damedias, Caribbean sea

On December 7th 2018, AIDA participated in the eighth meeting of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) to the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) in the wider Caribbean Region. During the meeting AIDA advocated that the Committee prioritize the protection of parrotfish and other herbivores due to their integral role in maintaining the wellbeing of coral reefs. Herbivorous fish feed on macroalgae that covers coral reefs. Macroalgae growth deprives the coral of light and oxygen, therefore the absence of a healthy biomass of herbivorous fish that eat the algae and the high nutrients and contaminants runoff can cause severe damage to the marine ecosystem.  

On June 3d 2019, AIDA participated in the tenth meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP) to the SPAW Protocol in Honduras. In this meeting, the COP approved the recommendations made by STAC to urgently define the terms of reference (objectives, scope, and strategies) for parrotfish and other herbivorous fish management associated with coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves in the Wider Caribbean Region. This decision will help build the governance frame for regional resources in the area that encloses the second largest coral reef in the world, belonging to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea ecosystems, and could play a key role in the protection -at a regional scale- of the Wider Caribbean.

As part of the Cartagena Convention, and as one of the countries yet to ratify their participation in the protocol, Mexico’s support is critical. The countries that belong to and share the Wider Caribbean Region need to consider having reciprocal regulations to protect the ecological functions, natural resources and ecosystem services provided by the coral reef system. The Mexican shoreline encompasses a portion of the Mesoamerican reef, playing an important role in protecting marine areas, conserving biodiversity, and regulating fishing along the reef. AIDA’s Marine team believes that the systemic perspective of these measurements is an opportunity to be part of the transition and the perfect time to ratify Mexico’s presence in the Protocol, enforcing the regulation measures to manage and regulate key marine species.

The approval of these recommendations is a strong step because it will allow AIDA to diffuse environmental norms to countries within the SPAW agreement and create a broader positive change. AIDA hopes to form a communal and differentiated understanding in the greater Caribbean region that marine ecology needs to be sustained and protected. We hope to recreate results like this in the future which will allow us to guide the development of environmental standards.

Jul 1, 2019

Inter-American Commission visits communities

Photo: Pedro Prado / FARPA / CIDH (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Pedro Prado / FARPA / CIDH (CC BY 2.0)

Last November, AIDA accompanied a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on a visit to the Mïratu Village, located in the Paquiçamba indigenous region in the state of Pará, Brazil. Mïratu is one of the indigenous communities affected by the Belo Monte Dam. It was the first time the Commission has visited that area.

During their visit to the region, the Commission heard testimonies from indigenous people and fishermen who are fighting to maintain their traditional way of life despite damages including: the death of thousands of fish; the pollution of the Xingú river; forced displacement from their lands without adequate relocation; and the development of culturally inappropriate projects. The Commission also heard from representatives of Altamira, the city nearest the dam.

Village leaders reported that those damages have disproportionately affected women and children, and expressed that they were especially concerned over next year’s scheduled implementation of a plan to manage the flow of the Xingú River. Known as a consensus hydrogram, it would divert the water that indigenous and riverine communities, as well as plants and animals, rely on to survive.

Commissioners had the opportunity to confirm the severity of the impacts and understand the urgent need to revise the criteria used to define the residual flow that the Xingu must maintain in order to guarantee the subsistence and culture of indigenous and riverine communities in the Vuelta Grande region.

Overall, Brazil has been one of the largest violators of the human rights of indigenous communities. In their meeting with the Commission, the Brazilian Indigenous Communities Organization (APIB) presented these cases and expressed its concern over the current political landscape, in which a discourse of hatred and racism has been growing, even among government institutions.

Commissioner Antonia Urrejola Noguera, IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil, said that in Brazil, indigenous communities “suffer from frequent incidents of violence and lack of attention from public services, in addition to increased difficulties and obstacles surrounding claims to their lands,” while presenting the Commission’s preliminary conclusions.

Concluding its visit to the country, the Commission urged Brazilian authorities and society in general to recognize, address, and quickly resolve repeated violations of the human rights of indigenous communities. The Commission emphasized the case of the Mïratu indigenous community, affected by the environmental damages caused by the construction of the Belo Monte Dam.

We’d like to highlight the importance of the Commission’s historic visit to Mïratu Village, and recognize the negative impacts that the Belo Monte Dam has had on the human rights of the people of the Xingu River basin. It is now up to the government of Brazil to adopt the decisions and recommendations of the Commission, complying with the rule of law and protecting the people of their country.

With the current administration’s extremely questionable decisions that signal the weakening of guarantees for indigenous peoples in Brazil, the Amazon, and the environment as a whole, demonstrating progress in international institutions and a respect for the rights of indigenous communities—in cases like the Xucuru, the Xingu, and Guyraroka peoples—, is of critical importance to strengthen rule of law in Brazil.

 
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