Indigenous community takes Guatemalan land rights fight to international court

Sandra Cuffe write in Mongabay about a community in north east Guatemala, Agua Caliente Lote 9, which is taking a case, against the Guatemala State, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case relates to land rights and, if successful, may well have an affect on resource extraction activities.

An Indigenous community engaged in a decades-long struggle for land rights in Guatemala is bringing its battle to an international court this week in a case that could have far-reaching implications for Indigenous rights and mining activity.

The Maya Q’eqchi’ community of Agua Caliente Lote 9 is presenting its case against the State of Guatemala to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a hearing Wednesday. A ruling is tentatively expected within a year.

Collective land rights in Agua Caliente Lote 9, located roughly 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Guatemala City, are the core issue. However, the case also addresses a nearby nickel mining project that has been tied to conflict and violence for more than 60 years.

“We are seeking substantive measures,” said Leonardo Crippa, a senior attorney at the U.S.-based Indian Law Resource Center.

The Agua Caliente Lote 9 case will give the court an opportunity to rule on recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights to sovereignty over their natural resources, according to Crippa. He has been working on Indigenous collective land rights cases for years, including that of Agua Caliente Lote 9.

“We hope the court orders the state to establish legislative and other measures to recognize the right of communities to collective property over lands they possess and to use, develop, control and benefit from the natural resources that are in their territories,” Crippa told Mongabay.

Now owned by the Solway Investment Group, a metals and mining conglomerate based in Switzerland, the Fenix project in the Q’eqchi’ region includes mountaintop mining and ferronickel processing facilities near the shore of Lake Izabal.

The lake and associated waterways sustain important ecosystems and protected areas home to diverse fish, bird, reptile and mammal species, including the endangered Guatemalan black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra). Pollution is a concern for many local residents whose livelihoods depend on subsistence agriculture and fishing.

At the end of the article there is also related listening of Mongabay’s podcast on the importance of securing Indigenous land rights within the context of a global push for land privatization.

Categories: Audio, Environment, Evictions, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Military, Mining, Poverty, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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