After more than 20 years of litigation, the Inter-American Court agreed with the Association of Indigenous Communities Lhaka Honhat in the claim that it initiated against the State in 1998 with the sponsorship of CELS.
It ordered that the State grant a single title to the community property of 400 thousand hectares of ancestral lands. For the first time, the Court recognizes the violation by a State of the rights to cultural identity, to a healthy environment, to food, and to water.
On Thursday, April 2, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published its judgment in the case "Indigenous Communities members of the Lhaka Honhat (Our Land) Association v. Argentina." In its ruling, it states that the Wichí (Mataco), Iyjwaja (Chorote), Komlek (Toba), Niwackle (Chulupí) and Tapy'y (Tapiete) peoples have the right to their ancestral property in the north of Salta and to a unique title for the 400 thousand hectares that cover the former fiscal lots 55 and 14 of the Rivadavia department, and establishes deadlines for their fulfillment. The Argentine State also violated a series of rights: it did not create the mechanisms to guarantee community property rights, it did not give them a real and effective title, without internal subdivisions, it did not consult the communities when it made modifications to their territories.
The Inter-American Court emphasizes that the changes in the way of life of the communities and their cultural identity are related to the interference in their territory produced by activities outside their traditional customs. This interference had an impact on the traditional way of feeding of the indigenous communities and on access to water. For this reason, for the first time it set standards on the right to water, food and a healthy environment.
The required diligence could respond to the health emergency suffered by the communities and which has already caused several deaths from malnutrition this year. Together with Lhaka Honhat, we asked the national and provincial government to intervene in February. We underline the relationship between the territorial claim of the populations and the absence of effective protection policies that, in this time of pandemic, become more acute.
The ruling marks an important milestone for the struggle of indigenous peoples for their rights, since it is the first time that the Court has issued a judgment on ancestral property in our country and that it has pronounced on a territorial dispute of these dimensions.
In its judgment, the highest court ruled that the State must, within a maximum period of six years:
-Deliminate, demarcate and grant a single collective title without subdivisions or fragmentation for the indigenous communities that are part of the “Association of Aboriginal Communities Lhaka Honhat”.
-Make effective the transfer of the Creole population outside the territory, through specific mechanisms that promote, above all, the voluntary transfer of that population.
-Remove fences and livestock belonging to Creole settlers from indigenous lands.
- Refrain from carrying out acts, works or undertakings in the indigenous territory.
In addition, in relation to federal regulations on the recognition of indigenous community property of all communities in Argentina, the Court required the State to adopt legislative and / or other measures to provide legal security for the human right to property. indigenous community.
Food, access to water, healthy environment and cultural identity
The Court demanded that the State present a study in six months that identifies the critical situations of lack of access to drinking water or food and that it formulate an action plan in which it determines the actions it will take and the time in which they will be carried out. The plan must be prepared in dialogue with the communities and its implementation will be immediate from its presentation.
A 36-year claim
Since 1984, these communities that bring together more than ten thousand people have demanded the recognition and titling of their ancestral lands, in the province of Salta. For years they were forced to modify their uses and customs by the settlement of Creole families, grazing in their territories, fences and illegal logging.
For decades they have asked for a single title without internal subdivisions in the name of all the indigenous communities that inhabit the former fiscal lots 55 and 14 of the Rivadavia department. In the absence of a response from the Argentine State, in 1998 the Lhaka Honhat Association, sponsored by CELS, filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2012, the Inter-American Commission issued its report on the merits, in which it declared the violation of the rights of the communities and ordered the corresponding reparations. The failure of the State determined that the case was presented in 2018 to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Here: the summary of the sentence and the full sentence.