James Anaya

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Cases Examined
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Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur (June 2009 – July 2010)

A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, 15 September 2010



IV. Bangladesh: Alleged violent attacks on Jumma villages in Rangamati and Khagrachari districts, Chittagong Hill Tracts

37. In a letter dated 5 March 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, together with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Phillip Alston, called the attention of the Government of Bangladesh to information received in relation to alleged attacks against indigenous peoples in 14 indigenous villages in Sajek Union, in the Rangamati district, Chittagong Hill Tracts.

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CASOS EXAMINADOS POR EL RELATOR ESPECIAL  (AGOSTO 2010 – JULIO 2011)

A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 2011



 

Annex V

Guatemala: La situación de problemas sociales y ambientales generados por la mina Marlin y otros temas relacionados con esta situación

GTM 16/2009


1.         El Relator Especial sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, James Anaya, ha estado monitoreando la situación de problemas sociales y ambientales generados por la mina Marlin situado en los municipios predominantemente indígenas de San Miguel Ixtahuacán y Sipacapa en el departamento de San Marcos, así como asuntos relacionados con este caso, desde 2009. Tal y como fue informado en su informe anual de 2010 (A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, paras. 185-186), en una comunicación del 22 de diciembre de 2009 el Relator Especial llamó la atención del Gobierno de Guatemala a información recibida en relación con esta situación. Posterior a esta comunicación, el Relator Especial solicitó y obtuvo de parte del Gobierno una invitación para realizar una visita a Guatemala, la cual se efectuó entre el 14 y 18 de junio de 2010, a fin de analizar la situación de la aplicación de los principios de consulta con los pueblos indígenas en el país en relación con las industrias extractivas, con un enfoque especial en la situación de los pueblos afectados por la mina Marlin en los municipios de Sipacapa y San Miguel Ixtahuacán.

2.         En base al intercambio de información y comunicaciones con el Gobierno de Guatemala y otras partes interesadas, así como de la visita a Guatemala llevada a cabo en junio de 2010, el Relator Especial elaboró un informe con sus “Observaciones sobre la situación de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas de Guatemala en relación con los proyectos extractivos, y otro tipo de proyectos en sus territorios tradicionales”, con un anexo sobre el caso de la mina Marlin (A/HRC/18/35/Add.3). Este informe fue presentado públicamente mediante una videoconferencia el 4 de marzo de 2011, en la cual participaron representantes de pueblos indígenas, del Gobierno de Guatemala y de la comunidad internacional. Durante la videoconferencia, el Relator Especial proporcionó un resumen de su informe y respondió a las preguntas de los participantes.

3.         El 2 de mayo 2011, el Gobierno de Guatemala transmitió observaciones adicionales al Relator Especial sobre el informe. Además, el Gobierno transmitió al Relator Especial una nota, fechada el 6 de junio de 2011, con nueva información relacionada al caso de la mina Marlin. Los textos completos de las cartas del Gobierno de Guatemala del 16 de febrero de 2011, 2 de mayo de 2011 y 6 de junio de 2011 son accesibles en las versión electrónica del informe conjunto de comunicaciones de los titulares de mandatos de los procedimientos especiales (A/HRC/18/51), disponible en el sitio web del Consejo de Derechos Humanos.

4.         En relación con su informe sobre cuestiones conexas al caso de la mina Marlin, el Relator Especial mantuvo un diálogo con el Gobierno de Guatemala sobre el tema de la reglamentación del proceso de consulta con pueblos indígenas durante los primeros meses del año 2011. El Relator Especial elaboró observaciones detalladas sobre un borrador preliminar de un reglamento de consulta desarrollado por el Gobierno de Guatemala. Estas observaciones fueron transmitidas al Gobierno de Guatemala el 7 de febrero de 2011 y a organizaciones indígenas interesadas el 1 de marzo de 2011.


  

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Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur (June 2009 – July 2010)

A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, 15 September 2010



V. Brazil: Situation of the Belo Monte dam in the state of Pará

46. In a letter dated 6 April 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, called to the attention of the Government of Brazil’s information received in relation to two development projects that significantly affect indigenous peoples in the country: the construction of the Belo Monte dam in the state of Pará, and the planned transposition of the São Francisco River (addressed in the following section). This communication followed the Special Rapporteur’s report on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Brazil (A/HRC/12/24/Add.2), made public in 2009, which made reference to these two situations.

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CASOS EXAMINADOS POR EL RELATOR ESPECIAL  (AGOSTO 2010 – JULIO 2011)

A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 2011



 

 

Annex VI
Israel: Situation of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev desert 

ISR 2/2011
 
1.         In his communication of 1 February 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of Israel to the alleged demolitions of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev desert and the relocation of their inhabitants to government-planned villages. The full text of this communication can be accessed from the electronic version of the joint communications report (A/HRC/18/51), which is available on the web site of the Human Rights Council. This communication followed a request by the Special Rapporteur for a visit to Israel to examine the situation of the Bedouin people in the Negev, transmitted to the Government on 1 September 2010. The Special Rapporteur had not received a reply to that visit request. Nor did the Government respond to his communication of 1 February 2011 within 60 days as requested by the Special Rapporteur. In the absence of a response to his communication, the Special Rapporteur developed the observations below, which include an evaluation of the situation and recommendations, within the framework of relevant international standards. These observations were transmitted to the Government on 16 June 2011. Subsequently, the Government submitted a response on 15 August 2011.
 
Summary of the information received and transmitted to the Government
 
2.         According to the information received, the Bedouin have inhabited the area known as Negev since the seventh century, maintaining a semi-nomadic lifestyle, engaging in subsistence farming and raising livestock. Their land use practices were governed by an intricate system of customary land and water distribution and management. Allegedly, since 1948 the State of Israel has failed to recognize Bedouin legal entitlement to their traditional lands in the Negev, and instead most all of the lands in the Negev are officially designated as under ownership by the State. Rather than adopt a land policy that recognizes the villages established by the Bedouin in the Negev, from the 1960s to the 1980s the Government planned and created seven towns in the Negev and relocated Bedouin from their villages to these urban areas. These planned towns are Rahat, Ar’ara BaNegev, Tel Sheva, Kuseifa, Segev Shalom, Lakiya and Hura. Even though the Government has committed significant resources toward Bedouin housing and delivery of essential services within the planned towns, the people in the Government-created towns reportedly rank at the bottom of all the indicators used by the State to measure social and economic wellbeing. Furthermore, the Bedouin have complained that they cannot continue to live in their traditional manner in these urban areas, given that raising crops or animals in the towns is not allowed.
 
3.         Reportedly, out of approximately 155,000 Bedouin living in the Negev today, around half live in the recognized towns created by the Government and half live in 47 so-called “unrecognized villages”. According to the information received, although officially unrecognized, the majority of these villages were established prior to the creation of the State of Israel, and virtually all were established prior to the creation of the Government-created towns. The unrecognized villages are denied all forms of basic infrastructure and are not allowed to build or develop in any way. Building permits may not be issued in unrecognized villages, resulting in Bedouin individuals being indicted continually for “illegal” construction and in countless Bedouin homes being subject ot demolition orders. It is further alleged that, since the early 1990s, Bedouin people living in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev desert have experienced ongoing demolitions of their homes and villages by Israeli authorities. Most recently, during the course of 2010 and 2011, the Al-Arakib (also spelled El-Arkib) village has been destroyed on nine occasions, after having been rebuilt by villagers following each demolition. Reportedly, the residents were given no notice or warning about the demolitions to retrieve their personal possessions and valuable items like gas stoves and water tanks. Their sources of livelihood – olive trees, poultry and sheep – were also destroyed.
 
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
 
4.         Having cross-checked the information received and transmitted on this situation, the Special Rapporteur considers that in material respects the information is sufficiently credible to indicate a pressing problem that requires attention by the Government of Israel. In an ongoing spirit of constructive dialogue and cooperation, the Special Rapporteur offers the following observations, which include a series of recommendations, in the hopes that they may assist the Government of Israel to address this issue.
 
Duty to protect Bedouin rights to lands and resources in the Negev
 
5.         The Special Rapporteur considers there to be strong indications that Bedouin people have rights to certain areas of the Negev based on their longstanding land use and occupancy, under contemporary international standards. It is undisputed that the Bedouin have used and occupied lands within the Negev desert long before the establishment of the State of Israel and that they have continued through the present to inhabit the Negev, maintaining their culturally-distinctive land tenure and way of life. Yet, claims have persisted that the rights of the Bedouin to the lands they traditionally use and occupy in the Negev have not been adequately recognized and respected by the Government of Israel, either historically or today.
 
6.         The land tenure situation of the Bedouin in the Negev has been identified as a matter of concern by both the Human Rights Committee, in its review of Israel’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[1], and by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), in its review of Israel’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination[2]. In particular, the Human Rights Committee has stated that Israel “should respect the Bedouin population’s right to their ancestral land and their traditional livelihood based on agriculture” (CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 24) and similarly, CERD has recommended that Israel give “recognition of the rights of the Bedouins to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used by them” (CERD/C/ISR/CO/13, para. 25).
 
7.         The Special Rapporteur notes that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sheds further light on the obligations of the State in relation to the Bedouin. The difficulties of the Bedouin in maintaining their distinct cultural identities and connections to their traditional lands are akin to the problems faced by indigenous peoples worldwide. The specific relevance of the Declaration, as evident by its terms, and of the various United Nations programs and mechanisms concerning indigenous peoples, including the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is to those groups indigenous to a territory that are in non-dominant positions and that have suffered and continue to suffer threats to their distinct identities and basic human rights, in ways not felt by dominant sectors of society.
 
8.         Accordingly, with respect to Israel’s apparent failure to recognize and respect the rights of Bedouin to lands and resources in the Negev, it bears mentioning that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms:
            Article 26
            1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
            2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
            3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories    and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the    customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.
 
9.         Further, the Special Rapporteur is concerned that there appears to be no effective land claim procedure for the Bedouin people to invoke, prior to their removal from lands they occupy or to the demolition of the unrecognized villages. The Special Rapporteur notes that, as provided by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, States have an affirmative duty to establish a process for identifying and protecting indigenous land rights, and this process should be carried out in cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned[3]. Given the failure of the State to establish a mechanism through which Bedouin may seek to have any existing rights to lands and resources recognized, Bedouin people appear to have been defenseless in the face of threats to their rights to lands and resource, threats that have materialized into the destruction of unrecognized Bedouin villages and forced removal of Bedouin people.
 
Limitations on rights to lands and redress
 
10.       Like other property interests, the property rights of indigenous peoples based on their traditional land and resource tenure may be subject to limitations for legitimate, non-discriminatory public purposes in accordance with law. The Special Rapporteur would welcome information from the State of Israel about its justifications for the severe limitations on Bedouin land rights that are imposed by the demolitions of Bedouin villages.
 
11.       According to the information the Special Rapporteur has received from other sources, possible explanations for the Government’s demolitions of unrecognized Bedouin villages include the need to concentrate the Bedouin people into recognized towns and settlements so as to assist in the delivery of services to them. Another reason identified for the demolitions is to clear the way for maintaining a Jewish presence throughout the Negev, in order to offset the high population growth of the Bedouin, which is one of the highest in the world. With respect to the first of these possible justifications, there are questions regarding the non-discriminatory application of this policy, since according to the information received Jewish settlements in the Negev are provided with essential services while Bedouin settlements of comparable sizes and populations are not. The second of these possible justifications – assisting in maintaining a Jewish presence in the Negev in order to offset the high population growth of the Bedouin – is racially discriminatory on its face, and thus, even if it were established by law, could not count as a legitimate limitation on Bedouin land rights that comports with relevant international standards.
 
12.       The Special Rapporteur further notes that, while in general, removals of people from their traditional lands have serious implications for a wide range of human rights, these implications are greater for groups like the Bedouin, who hold bonds of deep historical and cultural significance to the lands in which they live. In this context, consent is a precondition for any forced removal according to article 10 of the United Nations Declaration, which states that “[i]ndigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return”.
 
13.       The Special Rapporteur has been informed that some of the past relocations of Bedouin from unrecognized villages to urban townships were, in some instances, carried out in consultation with and with the consent of the affected Bedouin people. However, according to the information received, which the Special Rapporteur finds to be credible, there have been several more recent cases, including the case of the Al-Arakib village, in which consent of the affected Bedouin was clearly not obtained prior to the demolition of their village.
 
14.       In any case, even if, after careful analysis bearing in mind the above standards, restriction of the rights to land and resources of Bedouin is considered an option, these restrictions should only take place with adequate mitigation measures and, in the case of any removals, with the agreement of the affected Bedouin within a participatory, consensus-building process, and the opportunity to return to their traditional lands. In this connection, article 28 of the Declaration affirms the right of indigenous peoples “to redress, which can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent”, and “[u]nless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress”.
 
15.       In the cases that have been brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur, including the case of Al-Arakib, it is alleged that no alternative lands over which the Bedouin may continue their traditional ways of life have been set aside and no monetary compensation for the removals and the land loss has been provided. Moreover, a number of reports indicate that in the course of the forced removals, Bedouin have suffered the destruction of personal belongings and livestock, with no compensation.
 
Recommendations
 
16.       In light of the foregoing the Special Rapporteur would like to make the following recommendations to the Government of Israel:
 
17.       The Government should ensure that all laws and administrative practices related to lands and development align with international standards concerning rights of indigenous people to lands, territories and resources. To this end, the Government should undertake a comprehensive review of its land and development policies that affect Bedouin people living in the Negev, giving due attention to the recommendations in relevant reports of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. As part of this review, Israel should establish a mechanism to identify and protect the lands in the Negev over which Bedouin people have legal entitlement, in accordance with relevant international standards.
 
18.       Israel should immediately cease to carry out any further demolitions of Bedouin villages in the Negev or any forced relocations of Bedouin from unrecognized villages to recognized townships, unless in consultation with affected Bedouin and pursuant to their free, prior and informed consent.
 
19.       Israel should establish an adequate mechanism under which affected Bedouin can apply to receive redress for any restrictions to or infringements of their rights to lands and resources, including such restrictions or infringements resulting from demolitions and evictions carried out. Redress should include comparable alternative lands and monetary compensation for lands, resources and other property that have been lost, and the State should also provide the option of the return of groups to their traditional lands, at a future date, if possible and if they so desire.
 
20.       Israel should ensure the delivery of essential services to Bedouin people, both within and outside of the recognized towns. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur supports and reiterates the recommendation of the Human Rights Committee that Israel should “guarantee the Bedouin population’s access to health structures, education, water and electricity, irrespective of their whereabouts on the territory of the State party” [(CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 24 (2010)].
 
21.       The Government should embrace a long-term vision for social and economic development of the Negev, including in the unrecognized Bedouin villages, bearing in mind the historical and cultural importance of these villages to the Bedouin and to the society at large. This long-term vision for development of the Negev should enable Bedouin to become active participants in and direct beneficiaries of any development initiatives affecting the lands the Bedouin traditionally use and occupy within the Negev.
 
22.       These observations and recommendations represent only an initial assessment of this situation, and the Special Rapporteur would welcome the opportunity to maintain a continued dialogue with the Government of Israel in this regard. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate his interest in carrying out an on-site visit to Israel to examine in greater detail the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev, in accordance with my mandate from the Human Rights Council to “examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples […] and to identify, exchange and promote best practices” (HRC Res. 15/14).  
Response of the Government of Israel
 
23.       In a letter dated 15 August 2011, the Government of Israel responded to the issues raised by the Special Rapporteur. The response was sent after the cut-off date for publication of government responses in the joint communications report of Special Procedures mandate holders. Therefore, the complete text of the letter will be available in the next joint report. With this in mind, the Special Rapporteur summarizes here the Government’s response.
According to the Government:
 
·         The State of Israel does not accept the classification of its Bedouin citizens as an indigenous people. Historically, Bedouin tribes arrived to the Negev area late in the Ottoman era, mainly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to an already existing legal regime.
·         Certain Bedouin families claim private ownership to vast lands, relying upon Bedouin custom. The land laws of the State of Israel, as developed from the Ottoman and British laws that preceded them do not recognize Bedouin custom as a source for private land rights. The area in question includes thousands of dunams, situated between Rahat and Beer Sheva. This is State land (“mawat”) according to Ottoman law, which was adopted during the British mandatory period and then absorbed into the laws of the State of Israel. As in other countries under the Ottoman and later British rule, private land transactions and claims of private ownership were subject to approval, acknowledgement and registration by government authorities. The Bedouins ignored these laws, for a variety of reasons, including economic considerations and a reluctance for making tax payments. Since the 1950s, the land has been held by Israel’s Development Authority and the Israel Lands Administration.
·         After the foundation of the State of Israel, some areas of the Negev region were expropriated for housing, security and development needs, and have since been considered as public domain. The expropriated lands remain used for their initial stated purposes including housing and agriculture. Bedouin claims regarding land ownership were collected by Israel in the 1970s as part of a legal procedure that was carried out by the State. Unlike in other regions and despite a lack of legal documentation for Bedouins claims, the State has tried to settle claims beyond the letter of the law, offering compensation and alternative land plots in state organized localities. This policy accompanied the transition of the Bedouin society over the years from semi-nomadic to permanent housing. The nomadic lifestyle, as was practiced in the last century, no long exists, and does not seem to suit the current needs of the community.
·         The so-called El-Arkib village was simply an act of squatting on state owned land. The individuals never had ownership over this land. In the early 2000s, the Israel Lands Administration lawfully evicted the Bedouin families, but many individuals returned to the area without permission. This started a series of legal proceedings, held in three instances in including the Supreme Court, all of which ordered the Bedouin families to leave the area. The Israel Lands Administration continued to evict the families and they continued to return. Israel also offered the Bedouin families alternate agricultural lands at symbolic rates, but they refused and continued their illegal actions.
·         Israel has a long-existing policy of offering alternative living arrangements for those who live outside established localities. The State of Israel allocated a significant budget to offer constructive solutions to the housing, services and infrastructure needs of the Bedouin community. Further, Israel plans to build new localities suitable for the lifestyle and occupations of the Bedouin community.
·         The issue of the Bedouin settlement was recently examined by an independent public commission chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg. The committee’s report, submitted in 2008, contained a range of options, particularly from its Bedouin representatives. At the time of the submission of the report, the government appointed an implementation team for the report, which is scheduled to present its conclusions in the near future. The Goldberg Report does not envisage to give land to the Bedouins in the area taken over by the squatters and does not propose to establish a town at the site. The report emphasizes the need to stop the illegal construction in the Negev immediately, and it charges the authorities with vigorous enforcement of the law against the illegal construction.
 
Further observations by the Special Rapporteur
 
24.       The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Israel for its response of 15 August 2011, although it comes well after the expiration of the time within which the Special Rapportuer had asked for responses to his earlier communications. The Special Rapporteur asked for a response to his initial communication of 1 February 2011 within 60 days, and he invited submission by 18 July 2011 of any comments the Government may have to his above observations, which were transmitted to the Government on 16 June 2011. Nonetheless, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the Government’s response, and he would like to comment on it as follows.
 
25.       First, the Special Rapportuer acknowledges the position of the State of Israel that it does not accept the classification of its Bedouin citizens as an indigenous people given that Bedouin tribes arrived to the Negev area late in the Ottoman era, mainly from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to an already existing legal regime. The Special Rapporteur notes, however, the longstanding presence of Bedouin people throughout a geographic region that includes Israel, and observes that in many respects, the Bedouin people share in the characteristics of indigenous peoples worldwide, including a connection to lands and the maintenance of cultural traditions that are distinct from those of majority populations. Further, the grievances of the Bedouin, stemming from their distinct cultural identities and their connection to their traditional lands, can be identified as representing the types of problems to which the international human rights regime related to indigenous peoples has been designed to respond. Thus, the Special Rapporteur considers that the concerns expressed by members of the Bedouin people are of relevance to his mandate and fall within the ambit of concern of the principles contained in international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
 
26.       In addition, the Special Rapporteur cannot avoid making principled assessments about the scope of his mandate in relation to particular groups in the course of addressing human rights concerns that are brought to his attention. In this connection, consistent with the terms of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur cannot simply accept without independent inquiry general assertions that particular groups are not within his mandate. Nor does he consider that the question of whether or not a particular group is indigenous and related considerations can be left entirely to the subjective determination of States. The very human rights principles that undergird international concern for indigenous peoples, and an understanding about the context in which indigenous issues arise in connection with those principles, instead must guide assessments of this type. The Special Rapporteur hopes that the Government of Israel will reconsider its position in this regard and that, in any event, it will work diligently toward ensuring full and adequate responses to the human rights issues raised regarding the situation of the Bedouin people in the Negev.
 
27.       Second, the Special Rapporteur would like to respond to Israel’s position that Bedouin people do not have customary rights to lands in the Negev given that the land laws of the State of Israel, as developed from the Ottoman and British laws that preceded them, do not recognize Bedouin custom as a source of private land rights. In the view of the Special Rapporteur, such a position, which is based in colonial era laws and policies, should be reviewed. Far from providing a justification for the current failure to recognize indigenous peoples’ land rights based on their customs, the historical denial of these rights and the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands are acts that are now understood to be inconsistent with international human rights standards. In this regard, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically requires that States must provide “redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent” (article 28). Finally, the Special Rapporteur does recognize the need for an orderly administration of land and a respect for the rule of law. However, legal and administrative policies related to land must also be consistent with international human rights standards and accordingly must also be adjusted where they fall short of those standards.
 
28.       The Special Rapporteur reaffirms the recommendations made in the above observations, and he will continue to monitor the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev as appropriate.
 


[1] CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3, para. 24 (2010).
[2] CERD/C/ISR/CO/13, para. 25 (2007).

[3] Article 27 of the Declaration affirms that “States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process”. 

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Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur (June 2009 – July 2010)

A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, 15 September 2010



 VI. Brazil: Situation of the planned transposition of the São Francisco River

54. In a letter dated 6 April 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, called to the attention of the Government of Brazil information received in relation to two development projects that significantly affect indigenous peoples in the country: the construction of the Belo Monte dam in the state of Pará (addressed in the previous section) and the planned transposition of the São Francisco River. This communication followed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Brazil (A/HRC/12/24/Add.2), made public in 2009, which made reference to these two situations. The Government of Brazil responded to the 6 April letter in a communication dated 8 June 2010. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur met with the President of the Brazilian National Foundation for Indigenous Issues (FUNAI) during the session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in April 2010, during which he received further information on the issues raised in his letter. The following provides the content of the information exchange in relation to the São Francisco River project.

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CASOS EXAMINADOS POR EL RELATOR ESPECIAL  (AGOSTO 2010 – JULIO 2011)

A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 2011


Annex VII

Malaysia: Situation of the Long Teran Kanan village and native customary rights in Sarawak
MYS 3/2011
 
1.            In a communication of 18 February 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, together with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, transmitted to the Government of Malaysia information they received related to the situation of the Long Teran Kanan community and the alleged failure of the Government to recognize and respect native customary rights in Sarawak and, consequently, the infringement of a range of human rights.
 
2.            This communication took place alongside the Special Rapporteur’s ongoing communications with the Government of Malaysia regarding a potential visit to the country. On 4 February 2011, the Special Rapporteur wrote the Government expressing his interest in carrying out a visit to the country. On 24 May 2011, he sent a follow-up letter describing the specific issues he would be interested in examining during such a visit. As the Special Rapporteur noted in that letter, he would be interested in looking at issues related to land and development affecting indigenous peoples, and examine potential ways for harmonizing competing interests in this connection, in accordance with relevant international human rights standards related to indigenous peoples.
 
3.            Although as of time this report was finalized the Special Rapporteur had not received a definitive response to his request for a visit, the Government did respond to the communication of 18 February 2011. The Government submitted its response by a note dated 15 July 2011. The full text of this note and the Special Rapporteur’s communication to which it responds can be accessed from the electronic version of the joint communications report (A/HRC/18/51), which is available on the web site of the Human Rights Council.
 
4.            Prior to receiving the response of the Government of Malaysia of 15 July 2011, and in the absence of a response to his communication of 18 February 2011 within 60 days as requested, the Special Rapporteur developed observations on the situation, which he transmitted to the Government on 29 June 2011. In its response of 15 July 2011 the Government did not specifically address the observations transmitted on 29 June 2011, but rather directed its comments at the Special Rapporteur’s earlier communication of 18 February 2011. The Special Rapporteur would like to thank the Government of Malaysia for its response and for the clarifications it made, especially in relation to the case of the Long Teran Kanan community. Nonetheless, the Special Rapporteur notes that the observations he transmitted to the Government on 29 June 2011 continue to be relevant, and he reiterates those observations below, with some modifications made in light of the Government’s response. By way of background, the Special Rapporteur first provides summaries of the information and allegations received in this matter and of the Government’s response.
 
Summary of information received and transmitted to the Government on 18 February 2011
 
5.            According to the information received, the Kayan indigenous community of the Long Teran Kanan village in Tinjar, Miri, in the state of Sarawak, has been involved in a legal dispute over its land for the past 12 years, which resulted in the Miri High Court ruling in favour of the community on 31 March 2010. The Special Rapporteur understands that, in its decision, the Court affirmed the village’s “native customary rights over their native customary lands” and held that the provisional leases issued within the area by the Sarawak Government to the Land Custody Development Authority and IOI Pelita Plantation Sdn. Bhd., all of whom were named as defendants in the case, were null and void. The Court further found that the rights of the Long Teran Kanan community under Article 5 (right to life) and Article 13 (right to property) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia had been violated.
 
6.            Nevertheless, IOI Pelita Plantation Sdn. Bhd. has reportedly appealed the judgment and has allegedly not respected the Court order in the interim, continuing palm oil operations in the Long Teran Kanan community. As a result of the continued presence of IOI Pelita Plantation in the area, community members reportedly have limited to no access to the lands that they traditional have used for agriculture and other subsistence activities. Allegedly, the village’s crops have been bulldozed and planted with oil palms, destroying the Kayan people’s traditional livelihoods and forcing them to purchase food, medicine and wood that they previously collected from their community lands. Moreover, most of the communitiy’s former water catchment area has been cleared and planted with oil palms by the company, thereby depleting available water sources.
 
7.            Allegations have also been raised regarding the implementation of the Government’s “New Concept” policy announced in 1994, under which native customary communities are to receive 30 per cent of equity in development projects in exchange for a 60-year lease on their lands. Reportedly, native customary communities in Sarawak have not received the benefits to which they are entitled. Moreover, the manner in which communities’ consent has been obtained for the transfer of land for various development activies in Sarawak has reportedly been problematic. For example, in a number of cases, agreement for surrender of land and native customary rights has allegedly been obtained by only the village chief signing an agreement with companies, without the knowedge of the broader community.
 
8.            The Special Rapporteur has been informed that the case of the Kayan indigenous community of the Long Teran Kanan village is emblematic of the over 200 cases currently before the Sarawak courts relating to indigenous communities’ ability to exercise their native customary right over their lands, upon which they depend for fishing, hunting or farming, and which are essential to their cultural survival. Despite the fact that the courts of Malaysia have upheld native peoples’ customary right to land under the Constitution of Malaysia and the common law on several occasions, the Government of Sarawak has allegedly failed to implement these decisions and has failed to respect indigenous communities’ customary rights to land in other cases.
 
Summary of response of the Government of Malaysia of 15 July 2011
 
9.            With respect to the Long Teran Kenan community, the Government noted that the information received by the Special Rapporteurs was not entirely accurate. The Government reported that, while the High Court of Miri did affirm that the Long Teran Kanan community has native customary rights over the area in dispute, it also held that it would not be practical to ask the government of the state of Sarawak to cancel the leases that have been issued to IOI Pelita Plantation. Thus, the court granted the Long Teran Kanan damages instead. The Government reported that on 28 April 2010, both IOI Pelita Plantation and the state of Sarawak appealed the case to the court of appeal. The court of appeal had not yet heard the matter. Furthermore, on 22 March 2011 the High Court of Miri granted an injunction against the Long Teran Kanan community, restraining it from preventing the IOI Pelita Plantation from entering the concession area and from carrying out its palm oil activities.
 
10.          The Government response also addressed issues related to consultation and consent regarding development activities within native customary lands in Sarawak and issues related to the sharing of benefits derived from those activities. Malaysia refuted the allegation that a native customary community’s rights could be relinquished by the signature of one member of the community. The Government also clarified that only those native customary communities wishing to participate in the New Concept scheme in Sarawak are required to do so. Further, the Government refuted the allegation that indigenous peoples have been denied benefits under the New Concept scheme. Native customary landowners participating in the New Concept scheme have derived both financial benefits and benefits such as improved roads and heightened access to hospitals and schools.
 
11.          Malaysia reported that both the Federal Constitution and the laws of Sarawak prohibit the compulsory acquisition or use of the land without compensation. Finally, the Government concluded by affirming that it has taken measures to give due respect to the judicial judgments in court cases involving indigenous communities and their native customary rights over land under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the laws of the state of Sarawak and other laws.
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
 
12.          Malaysia should be recognized for its longstanding legal protection of native customary rights to land, both by statute, including the Sarawak Land Code, and in jurisprudence of Malaysia courts.[1] In the view of the Special Rapporteur, this legal framework, in particular the jurisprudence of Malaysia courts, is to a large extent in line with Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007, with an affirmative vote by Malaysia, and which states:
                Article 26
                1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources  which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
                2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
                3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples                concerned.
 
13.          Yet, from the information the Special Rapporteur has received regarding the situation of the Long Teran Kanan community and in the state of Sarawak in general, the Special Rapporteur observes that it is not uncommon for the protection of native customary rights to give way to competing interests over those same lands, including in relation to natural resourse extraction projects, especially forestry and palm oil activities. Further, it appears that, too often, political forces seek to undermine protections of native customary lands, in many cases for personal or political motives.
 
14.          In general, the information that the Special Rapporteur has received also indicates that there is not an adequate mechanism of consultation with indigenous peoples affected by major development projects. According to numerous reports, with regard to many such projects, consultations have not taken place directly with the affected indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, prior to approval of the projects and with the objective of achieving informed consent, as required the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Arts. 19, 32.2).
15.          As highlighted in the case of the Long Teran Kanan village, adding to these challenges with respect to native customary rights in Sarawak is the apparent absence of adequate mechanism of participation of indigenous peoples in the design and implementation of the development initiatives, the absence of adequate mitigation measures that take into account indigenous environmental and cultural concerns, and the absence of equitable sharing in the benefits of the development projects. The Special Rapporteur would like to note that Article 32 of the Declaration, with its call for the free prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples and measures of redress, provides an important template for avoiding these problems and for the possibility of such economic and infrastructure development projects to not just avoid harm to indigenous peoples but to advance their own development interests along with those of the larger society.
 
16.          The Special Rappoteur understands that an in-depth inquiry into the situation of native customary rights to land, including the situation in Sarawak, is currently being undertaken by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM). The Special Rapporteur expects that this study will also include a concerted investigation of the practices of government entities at all levels in issuing concessions for natural resource extraction projects in lands over which indigenous communities have native customary rights, with a view towards documenting potential irregularities in these practices and analyzing their compliance with national and international standards.
17.          The Special Rapporteur welcomes this initiative by SUHAKAM and belives that it will be an important point of reference for the future task of fully harmonizing government laws, policies and initiatives for economic development with those that provide recognition and protection of the land and resource rights, and related rights, of indigenous peoples. The Special Rapporteur looks forward to examining the results of SUHAKAM’s inquiry, and would like to offer assistance to the Government of Malaysia in connection with this process and future processes, if it would be deemed useful.
 


[1]  See, e.g., Adong bin Kuwau v. Kerajaan Negeri Johor [1997] 1 MLJ 418; Kerajaan Negri Johor & Anor v Adong bin Kuwau & Ors [1998] 2 MLJ 158; and Sagong bin Tasi & Ors v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor & Ors [2002] 2 MLJ 591. 

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Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur (June 2009 – July 2010)

A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, 15 September 2010



 VII. Brazil: Situation of indigenous peoples in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul

60. In a letter dated 15 March 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of Brazil to information received in relation to the alleged deteriorating human rights situation of indigenous peoples in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. This communication followed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil (A/HRC/12/24/Add.2), made public in 2009, which made reference to the situation in Mato Grosso do Sul. As of the completion of this report, there is no record of a response from the Government of Brazil.

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CASOS EXAMINADOS POR EL RELATOR ESPECIAL  (AGOSTO 2010 – JULIO 2011)

A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 2011


 

Annex VIII
México: Situación del supuesto otorgamiento de concesiones mineras en la región de Wirikuta, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, donde se encuentran sitios sagrados del pueblo wixárika (huichol)

MEX 8/2011
 
1.         El 26 de abril de 2011, el Relator Especial sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, James Anaya, llamó la atención al Gobierno de México sobre información recibida en relación con el supuesto otorgamiento de concesiones mineras en la región de wirikuta, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, donde se encuentran sitios sagrados del pueblo wixárika (Huichol). Al no haber recibido una respuesta dentro de 60 días tal como había solicitado, el Relator Especial envió una segunda comunicación, con fecha de 7 de julio de 2011, en la que transmitió observaciones con su evaluación preliminar de la situación. Posteriormente, mediante su nota del 19 de julio de 2011, el Gobierno de México respondió a la información y alegaciones contenidas en la carta inicial del Relator Especial. Las observaciones transmitidas al Gobierno, con modificaciones hechas en vista de su respuesta, se encuentran abajo, después de resumes de la información recibida sobre el caso y la respuesta del Gobierno. Los textos completos de la comunicación del Relator Especial del 26 de abril de 2011 y la respuesta del Gobierno del 19 de julio de 2011 son accesibles en la versión electrónica del informe conjunto de comunicaciones de los titulares de mandatos de los procedimientos especiales (A/HRC/18/51), disponible en el sitio web del Consejo de Derechos Humanos.
 
Resumen de la información recibida y transmitida al Gobierno el 26 de abril de 2011
 
2.         Según la información recibida, el Gobierno de México habría otorgado 22 concesiones mineras para la exploración de plata adquiridas por la empresa canadiense First Majestic Silver Corp., sobre un área de 6.327 hectáreas en la zona de Wirikuta, Real de Catorce, estado de San Luis Potosí. Se había alegado que estas concesiones fueron otorgadas por la Secretaría del Medioambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) y la Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA), sin consultar previamente al pueblo indígena wixárika (huichol) el cual considera como sagrado el área donde se encuentran las concesiones. El área de las concesiones abarca una importante ruta de peregrinación que ha sido utilizada por los wixárika por más de mil años, en donde se encuentran numerosos sitios sagrados con alto significado cultural y religioso, se realizan ceremonias, se encuentran enterrados sus antepasados, y en donde también recolectan el híkuri (o peyote) para uso ceremonial. Se había alegado que de las 6.327 hectáreas que abarcan las concesiones de First Majestic, el 68.92 por ciento (4.107 hectáreas) se encuentra dentro un área protegida denominada Reserva Ecológica y Cultural Wirikuta, establecida en 1994 para proteger la ruta de la peregrinación wixárika, sus sitios sagrados en la región de Real de Catorce, y el ecosistema de la zona.
 
Resumen de la repuesta del Gobierno del 19 de julio de 2011
 
3.         En su respuesta a la información y alegaciones resumidas arriba, el Gobierno afirmó que el “Plan de Manejo del Área Natural Protegida bajo la modalidad de Sitio Sagrado Natural de Huiricuta y la Ruta Histórico Cultural del pueblo Huichol, en los Municipios de Catorce, Villa de la Paz, Matehuala, Villa de Guadalupe, Charcas y Villa de Ramos del Estado de San Luis Potosí” fue elaborado después de amplias consultas con el pueblo indígena huichol y comunidades no-indígenas de la zona, durante 2007 y 2008. El Gobierno notó que, de las 35 concesiones existentes para la explotación minera en la zona, 19 fueron otorgadas antes, 9 fueron otorgadas durante y 7 fueron otorgadas después de la publicación del Plan de Manejo en 2008. El Gobierno resaltó que el Plan de Manejo crea sub-zonas de “aprovechamiento especial” de la reserva, en las que se permiten las actividades minero-metalúrgica. Además, en su respuesta, el Gobierno describió el proceso de otorgamiento de concesiones bajo el artículo 11 de la Ley de Minería y bajo los artículos 16 a 18 y 22 a 28 del reglamento de la Ley de Minería, los cuales fueron debidamente acatados por las empresas involucradas.
 
4.         En cuanto a la información que se ha proporcionado al pueblo wixárika sobre las actividades mineras de First Majestic en la región de Wirikuta y sus efectos, el Gobierno notó que el 13 de diciembre de 2010, en el Municipio de Real de Catorce, el representante de la empresa minera expuso información sobre el proyecto durante la sesión ordinaria del Consejo de Administración del Sitio Sagrado Natural de Wirikuta y la Ruta Histórico Cultural del pueblo Wixárika. Según el Gobierno, entre otra información proporcionada, la empresa especificó que la explotación de las minas sería de manera subterránea y no a cielo abierto y se aseguró que ninguno de los tres sitios sagrados de los Wixáritari será afectado por la explotación. El presidente del Consejo de Administración sugirió a los huicholes que se llevaran esta primera información de la minera y la consultaran con sus comunidades al respecto.
 
5.         El Gobierno señaló que la empresa no ha realizado actividades en la zona de Wirikuta, y que la empresa todavía no cuenta con todos los permisos administrativos necesarios para tal fin. Como parte del procedimiento de procuración de los permisos necesarios para el inicio de actividades mineras, varias leyes y reglamentos en México y en el estado de San Luis Potosí requieren el desarrollo de participación ciudadana y la consulta con pueblos indígenas afectados. En particular, el estado de San Luis Potosí cuenta con una Ley de Consulta Indígena, que establece en su artículo 9 que el estado tiene la obligación de consultar con los pueblos indígenas “el otorgamiento de concesiones, contratos, y demás instrumentos jurídicos que afectan el uso y disfrute de sus tierras o recursos naturales”. Asimismo, todavía está pendiente la realización de los estudios de impacto ambiental, y la procuración de permisos ambientales, en relación con los proyectos mineros en la zona de Wirikuta.
 
6.         Además, el Gobierno informó que el día 27 de abril de 2011, se llevó a cabo una reunión con participación de los representantes de diversas instituciones federales y locales, durante el cual se llegó a un consenso de brindar todo el apoyo institucional necesario para la protección de los lugares sagrados de Wirikuta en el estado de San Luis Potosí. El 3 de mayo de 2011, según el Gobierno, los representantes del pueblo wixárika aceptaron el ofrecimiento institucional para la protección de sus lugares sagrados. Finalmente, el Gobierno hizo un resumen del marco jurídico mexicano respecto a las concesiones mineras.
 
7.         Junto con su respuesta, el Gobierno transmitió al Relator Especial una copia de la “Ley de Consulta Indígena para el Estado y Municipios de San Luis Potosí”, así como varios otros documentos relacionados con el caso.
 
Observaciones del Relator Especial
 
8.         El Relator Especial quisiera expresar su agradecimiento al Gobierno de México por su respuesta detallada y por la información proporcionada. A continuación, el Relator Especial presenta las observaciones que fueron transmitidas al Gobierno el 7 de julio de 2011, con modificaciones que toman en cuenta la respuesta del Gobierno.
 
9.         La creación de la Reserva Ecológica y Cultural Wirikuta para proteger la ruta de la peregrinación wixárika y sus sitios sagrados refleja el reconocimiento por el Gobierno de México de la importancia de esta zona para la cultura wixárika, y de la necesidad de preservar el ecosistema de la zona. El Relator Especial considera, de hecho, que la Reserva Ecológica y Cultural Wirikuta pudiera representar un modelo ejemplar para garantizar el derecho de los pueblos indígenas “a mantener y fortalecer su propia relación espiritual con las tierras … que tradicionalmente han poseído u ocupado y utilizado de otra forma y a asumir las responsabilidades que a ese respecto les incumben para con las generaciones venideras”, de acuerdo con el artículo 25 de la Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas.
 
10.       A pesar de lo anterior, la respuesta del Gobierno de México indica que el Estado todavía no ha elaborado un estudio sobre los efectos de las propuestas actividades mineras en Real de Catorce sobre la Reserva Ecológica y Cultural Wirikuta, aunque un porcentaje significativo del área concesionada está dentro de la reserva. En este sentido, es necesario, de acuerdo con el artículo 7 del Convenio No. 169 de la Organización Internacional de Trabajo sobre pueblos indígenas y tribales en países independientes, ratificado por México en 1991, que el Estado efectúe “estudios, en cooperación con los pueblos interesados, a fin de evaluar la incidencia social, espiritual y cultural y sobre el medio ambiente” de las concesiones mineras otorgadas en la Reserva Ecológica y Cultural Wirikuta.
 
11.       Asimismo, el Relator Especial considera que es sumamente importante mantener continuamente espacios de acercamiento y diálogo entre los representantes del Gobierno, la empresa First Majestic y el pueblo wixárika, en el que los pueblos indígenas puedan recibir información objetiva y completa sobre todos los aspectos del proyecto que les podría afectar, y donde puedan aclarar y comunicar al Estado y a la empresa sus preocupaciones al respecto. Dentro de estos espacios, se debe buscar formas de evitar cualquier efecto perjudicial por parte de las posibles actividades de exploración y explotación minera sobre el área sagrada de los wixárika.
 
12.       En esta conexión, el Relator Especial toma nota de la reunión llevada a cabo por la empresa el 13 de diciembre de 2010 para proporcionar información sobre el proyecto minero al Consejo de Administración del Sitio Sagrado Natural de Wirikuta y la Ruta Histórico Cultural del pueblo Wixárika. Además, el Relator Especial agradece la información del Gobierno sobre la intención de llevar a cabo consultas con el pueblo wixárika como parte del procedimiento de procuración de los permisos pendientes de explotación minera.
 
13.       El Relator Especial hace recordar al Estado lo dispuesto en el artículo 19 de la Declaración sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, según el cual el diálogo con el pueblo wixárika sobre las actividades mineras que les puedan afectar debería sostenerse con el objetivo de “obtener su consentimiento libre, previo e informado”. El Relator Especial espera que el Gobierno pudiera coincidir en la opinión de que, si no se lograra el consentimiento de los wixárika al respecto, y fuese determinado que las actividades propuestas no pudieran desarrollarse de manera compatible con el conjunto los derechos relevantes del pueblo wixárika, no se debería avanzar con las actividades mineras.
 
14.       Al respecto se debería prestar especial atención a su derecho a mantener y desarrollar sus creencias religiosas de acuerdo a la Declaración sobre los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, la cual dispone en su artículo 18 que “Los pueblos indígenas tienen derecho a manifestar, practicar, desarrollar y enseñar sus tradiciones, costumbres y ceremonias espirituales y religiosas…” Además, el artículo 25 de la Declaración afirma el derecho de los pueblos indígenas “a mantener y fortalecer su propia relación espiritual con las tierras, territorios, aguas, mares costeros y otros recursos que tradicionalmente han poseído u ocupado y utilizado de otra forma y a asumir las responsabilidades que a ese respecto les incumben para con las generaciones venideras”.
 
15.       Es la intención del Relator Especial seguir monitoreando esta situación y quisiera reiterar su deseo de continuar manteniendo un diálogo constructivo con el Gobierno de México en este sentido. Quisiera asimismo expresar su disponibilidad de asistir a las partes en la búsqueda de medidas para evitar violaciones de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas en este caso, incluyendo a través de una visita in situ a la zona, si el Gobierno y las otras partes involucradas lo estimaran pertinente.
Tags: Mexico
 
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Cases examined by the Special Rapporteur (June 2009 – July 2010)

A/HRC/15/37/Add.1, 15 September 2010



VIII. Cambodia: Cambodia land laws and policies and the situation concerning development in and around the Prey Lang Forest

65. In a letter, dated 7 September 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of Cambodia to information received in relation to development activities, including road construction and land concessions, in and around the Prey Lang Forest in Korripon Thom Province, Preach Vihear, and Kratie Provinces. This communication from the Special Rapporteur followed earlier ones addressing a sub-decree on registration of indigenous communal lands issued by the executive authority of Cambodia. The contents of these earlier letters, dated 19 May 2009 and 22 July 2008, were included in the Special Rapporteur’s 2009 Report to the Human Rights Council Report (A/HRC/12/34/Add.1, paras. 12-23).

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CASOS EXAMINADOS POR EL RELATOR ESPECIAL  (AGOSTO 2010 – JULIO 2011)

A/HRC/18/35/Add.1, 22 Agosto 201


 

Annex IX
Thailand: Exhumation of Hmong Graves at Wat Tham Krabok
THA 8/2010
1.         In a communication of 17 December 2010, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, called the attention of the Government of Thailand to information received relating to the situation of the exhumation of Hmong graves at Wat Tham Krabok which occurred in 2005. This matter has been the subject of ongoing communications with the Government of Thailand, as reflected in the Special Rapporteur’s 2008 and 2009 annual reports to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/9/9/Add.1, paras. 473-479; and A/HRC/12/34/Add.1, paras. 404-429). In the absence of a response to his communication of 17 December 2010 within 60 days as requested, the Special Rapporteur sent another letter, dated 16 June 2011, in which he reiterated his concerns about the situation and again invited the Government to respond to specific recommendations. Subsequently, by a note dated 11 July 2011, the Government of Thailand responded to the Special Rapporteur’s communications. The full texts of the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 17 December 2010 and the Government’s response can be accessed from the electronic version of the joint communications report (A/HRC/18/51), which is available on the web site of the Human Rights Council.
 
The Special Rapporteur’s follow-up to earlier communications about the situation
 
2.         The Special Rapporteur’s letters of 17 December 2010 and 16 June 2010 follow up to earlier communications about the exhumation of Hmong graves at Wat Tham Krabok in 2005 and resulting grievances of Hmong relatives of the deceased. As expressed in previous communications, questions exist about the reasons for the exhumation of Hmong graves that occurred at Wat Tham Krabok as well as the level of the involvement of the Government of Thailand in the exhumations. In addition, ongoing information has been received about the continued harm felt by the relatives of the deceased and the absence of any action by the Government to remedy that harm.
 
3.         According to information received, Hmong groups have repeatedly sent delegations to dialogue with Government officials in order to achieve a resolution of the pending issues concerning the return of exhumed bodies. The relatives of the deceased Hmong and members of the Hmong communities worldwide have made specific requests to the Government of Thailand and Thai foundations in possession of the remains of the exhumed bodies for what they would consider to be an acceptable solution to their grievances.
 
These requests include that:
·         The three Thai foundations (Phothi Phavan Songkhao, Buddha Dahma and Wat Thamkrabok) return three petrified bodies they are holding to the relatives of the deceased without cost;
·         The three Thai foundations return the 691 bodies that were confirmed by the Thai Ministry of the Interior to have been exhumed, at no cost. This figure includes 211 bodies currently in Huilin Cemetery and another 480 bodies that were originally falsely reported to have been cremated;
·         The Government of Thailand and the authorities of Wat Tham Krabok allow the reburial of the 691 exhumed bodies at the original temple site at no cost; and
·         The Government of Thailand establishes a memorial park and a monument at Wat Tham Krabok to commemorate the Hmong buried there.
 
4.         In his letters of 17 December 2010 and 16 June 2011 the Special Rapporteur referred to these requests and urged the Government to give them special consideration, within a process of dialogue with Hmong representatives aimed at resolving this situation.
 
Response of the Government of Thailand
 
5.         In its response to the latest communications of the Special Rapporteur regarding the exhumation of Hmong graves in Wat Tham Krabok, the Government stated that, in principle, Thailand does not have any indigenous people. The Government went on to state, however, that given the importance Thailand attaches to cooperation with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, it appreciates the ongoing efforts of the Special Rapporteur to enegage with the Royal Thai Government and his willingness to help in the resolution of the matter.
 
6.         The Government stated that the facts and position of the Royal Thai Government have been explained in its previous Note No. 21010/497 dated 9 July 2008 and Note No. 52101/884 dated 17 December 2008. Summaries of these letters can be found in the Special Rapporteur’s previous reports to the Human Rights Council on cases examined (A/HRC/9/9/Add.1, paras. 475-478; and A/HRC/12/34.Add.1, paras. 406, 407, 409). In its letter of 11 July 2011 the Government reiterated points it had made on those previous letters, specifically that:
·         Laotian Hmongs had migrated from Lao People’s Democratic Republic to Thailand only from 2003 and thus could not be considered as indigenous people. They were allowed to take refuge in Wat Tham Krabok, a Buddhist Monastery in Saraburi Province, only for humanitarian reasons.
·         Under Thai law, the management of Buddhist monasteries is under the authority of an abbot. The Hmong buried their deceased relatives on the monastery grounds without any permission from the abbot or the administrative committee of Wat Tham Krabok.
·         When the monastery decided to convert parts of its land into a place for various religious facilities, the relatives of those Hmong buried at Wat Tham Krabok were informed in advance of the necessity to relocate he graves from the monastery grounds. Some Hmong came to reclaim their relatives’ bodies for relocation. Additionally, representatives of the Hmong community had given their consent to the monastery to proceed with the relocation.
·         Consequently, unclaimed bodies were exhumed and provided with a public cremation ceremony with full respect of the deceased as well as consideration for their families. In accordance with Buddhist practices, this mass grave exhumation and cremation ceremony were accompanied by rituals to honor the deceased.
 
7.         The Government further stated that, although there was no official involvement in the exhumation of Hmong graves in Wat Tham Krabok, in July 2008, the National Hmong Grave Desecration Committee (NHGDC) from the United States had a meeting with the government authority of Saraburi Province and later in August 2009, representatives of the NHGDC revisited Thailand to meet with Hmong peoples residing in various areas. The Government expressed its hope that these dialogues would serve to address the concerns expressed by the Hmong families.
 
Observations of the Special Rapporteur
 
8.         The Special Rapporteur is grateful for the response provided by the Government of Thailand to previous communications. Notwithstanding the assertions by the Government that no indigenous peoples exist in Thailand and previous assertions by the Government that the Hmong that were present at Wat Tham Krabok were originally refugees from Laos, the Special Rapporteur notes the longstanding presence of Hmong people throughout southeast Asia, including Thailand, and observes that in many respects the Hmong share characteristics similar to indigenous peoples worldwide, including their maintenance of cultural and religious traditions that are distinct from those of the majority. Therefore, the concerns expressed by members of the affected Hmong people are of relevance to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and fall within the ambit of concern of the principles contained in international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
 
9.         The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate his recommendation that the Government of Thailand engage in a dialogue with the affected Hmong in order to resolve the situation, and takes note of the Government’s information that it has held meetings with the National Hmong Grave Desecration towards this end. He again urges the Government to consider the proposals set out by the Hmong people, mindful of their cultural and spiritual views regarding their deceased with the view to restore a positive relationship with the Hmong. The Special Rapporteur will continue to monitor this situation as appropriate.
Tags: Thailand
 


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