Sarayacu Case Ecuador
Backround • The case concerns, among other matters, the granting by the State of a permit to a private oil company to carry out oil exploration and exploitation activities in the territory of the Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayakuin the 1990s, without previously consulting them and without obtaining their consent. • The company began the exploration phase, and even introduced high-powered explosives in several places on indigenous territory, thereby creating an alleged situation of risk for the population. • This prevented them from seeking means of subsistence and limited their rights to freedom of movement and to cultural expression. • In addition, this case relates to the lack of judicial protection and the failure to observe judicial guarantees.
Backround • TheSarayakuterritoryislocated in theAmazonianarea of Ecuador, in the tropical forest, in theprovinceof Pastaza, in differentpoints and ontheshores of theBobonazariver, at 400 metersabovesea level, 65 kilometersfromthecity of El Puyo. • Itisone of themostdenselypopulated and extensiveKichwasettlements of the Amazon and itiscomprised of approximately1200 inhabitants, accordingtothecensus of theindigenouscommunity. .
On numerous occasions the oil company tried to negotiate the entry into Sarayaku territory and achieve consent for oil exploration, among other, through actions such as: • a) Direct relations with the members of the communities, bypassing the indigenous organization structure. • b) Bringing a medical caravan to provide medical care to various communities in Sarayaku, whereby, in order to be treated, the person had to sign a list that would later be used as a letter sent to CGC supposedly asking for the works to continue; • c) Payment of money to individuals in the communities to recruit others in order to give their approval to the seismic prospecting activity; d) offering of gifts and personal benefits; e) formation of groups to support the oil activity, and • f) Offering of money, both to individuals and to the group.
The initial petition was lodged before the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights on December 19, 2003, by the Association of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku (Tayjasaruta), the Centro de DerechosEconómicos y Sociales (hereinafter “CDES”) and the Center for Justice and International Law (hereinafter “CEJIL”).
On June 15, 2004, the Commission submitted to the consideration of the Court a request for provisional measures in favor of the Sarayaku People and its members under Articles 63(2) of the American Convention and 25 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure. The Court ordered provisional measures on July 6, 2004,6 and they remain in effect.
The Commission asked the Court to declare the international responsibility of the State for the violation of: • The right to private property, recognized in Article 21, in relation to Articles 13, 23, and 1(1) of the American Convention, to the detriment of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku and its members; • The right to life, judicial guarantees and judicial protection, established in Articles 4, 8, and 25, in relation to Article 1(1) of the American Convention, to the detriment of the People and its members; • The right to freedom of movement and residence recognized in Article 22, in relation to Article 1(1) of the American Convention, to the detriment of the members of the People; • The right to personal integrity recognized in Article 5 of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, to the detriment of 20 members of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku; and • The obligation to adopt domestic legal measures established in Article 2 of the American Convention, and • Order the State to adopt specific measures of reparation.
The Commission asked the Court to order the State to: • i. “Adopt the measures necessary to ensure and protect the right to property of the Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku and its members with respect to their ancestral territory, taking particular care to ensure the special relationship they have to their land”; • ii. “Guarantee the members of this People their right to practice their traditional subsistence activities by removing the explosives planted on their territory; • iii. “Ensure that indigenous representatives play a meaningful and effective role in the decision-making processes on development and other issues that affect them and their cultural survival”; • iv. “Adopt, with the indigenous peoples’ participation, the legislative or other measures necessary to give effect to the right to prior, free and informed consultation, in good faith, in accordance with international human rights standards,” and • v. “Take the measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of similar events in the future, in keeping with the duty to prevent violations of human rights and to ensure the fundamental rights recognized in the American Convention.”
In addition to the measures indicated by the Commission, the representatives asked the Court to order the State to: • Among others: “Respect for the decision of the Sarayaku People to declare their entire territory that it owns as ‘Sacred Heritage Territory of Biodiversity and of the Ancestral Culture of the Kichwa Nationality”;
Obligation to guarantee the right to consultation in relation to the rights to indigenous communal property and cultural identity of the Sarayaku peoplerecognized in ILO Convention Nº 169, among other complementary international instruments. • The Court reiterated that Article 21 of the American Convention protects the close ties that indigenous peoples have with their land, as well as with the natural resources of their ancestral territories… • The Court established that the recognition of the right to free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous and tribal communities and towns, is based on, among other, the respect of their rights to their proprietary culture or cultural identity, which should be guaranteed • The consultation must be performed beforehand and in good faith with the objective of achieving agreement, must be an adequate and accessible consultation in conformity with their own traditions and must be informed in the sense that the indigenous communities must have knowledge of the possible risks.
In relation with the Environmental Impact Assessment article 7(3) of ILO Convention Nº 169 establishes that “governments shall ensure that, whenever appropriate, studies are carried out, in co-operation with the peoples concerned, to assess the social, spiritual, cultural and environmental impact on them of planned development activities. • The Court observed that the environmental impact plan: • a) was created without the participation of the Sarayaku indigenous community; • b) was created by a private entity subcontracted by the oil company, without undergoing subsequent strict control by the State’s supervisory bodies, and • c) did not take into account the social, spiritual and cultural effect that the contemplated activities could have of the Sarayaku people.
The Court ordered various measures of restitution, satisfaction, guarantees of non repetition, and compensation: • Neutralize, deactivate and, where appropriate, remove the surface and buried pentolite in the territory of the Sarayaku Indigenous Community, based on a process of consultation with the Indigenous Community… • Consult the SarayakuIndigenous Community in a prior, adequate, and effective manner, fully in accordance with applicable international standards on the subject, in the event that it intends to perform an activity or project for the extraction of natural resources in their territory. • Pay the amounts established as compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, and reimbursement of costs and expenses. • The State must submit to the Court a report on the measures adopted to comply with the Judgment, within one year of its notification, without detriment to the terms established for the removal of the pentolite.