Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Access to Justice and Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Oral Intervention by LRWC to the UN Human Rights Council

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Access to Justice and Protection of Human Rights Defenders, oral intervention by LRWC to the UN Human Rights Council on 17 September  2014, presented by Catherine Morris. The video of Catherine Morris presenting this statement during the Panel Discussion on Indigenous Peoples can be viewed by going to this link, starting the video and fast forwarding to 2:27:30.

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Date: 17 September 2014
HRC section: Panel on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Speaker: Ms. Catherine Morris

Oral Statement to the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council from Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status

Re: Indigenous peoples: access to justice and protection of human rights defenders in disaster risk reduction

Mr. President:

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada welcomes the Expert Mechanism’s study including its emphasis on consultation and on obtaining indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent on measures that may affect their lands, territories and natural resources.

Good access to justice and protection of indigenous activists and human rights defenders is key to the reduction of indigenous peoples’ vulnerabilities. Yet human rights defenders are often subject to pressures when working with indigenous communities. For example:

  • In Brazil, indigenous human rights defender Davi Kopenawa recently received death threats after his successful campaign against gold mining in Yanomami territory.1
  • In Canada, indigenous peoples are concerned about the lack of free, prior and informed consent to the use of indigenous lands and resources. There have been allegations of government surveillance of indigenous human rights activists.2 Indigenous women and girls in Canada comprise a disproportionate number of those living in poverty and are particularly vulnerable to abuse, yet access to justice for cases involving economic, social or cultural rights remains inadequate due in part to lack of government legal aid funding.3
  • In Colombia, indigenous leaders4 and human rights defenders are regularly targeted with threats, harassment, stigmatization and killings for their defence of their ancestral culture and territories.
  • In Thailand, Mr. Porlagee (Billy) Rakcharoen, a Karen human rights defender seeking recognition of indigenous land rights, is a suspected victim of enforced disappearance. He has not been seen since his arrest on 17 April, even though authorities claim to have released him.6

Attacks on indigenous human rights defenders are symptoms of a lack of consultation and collaboration that is essential for disaster risk reduction. Accordingly, we join the Expert Mechanism in seeking Council’s particular attention to indigenous human rights defenders.7

Thank you, Mr. President.