Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

Third ruling condemns Paraguay for its treatment of Indigenous Peoples

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 29 September 2010
Cite as Amnesty International, Third ruling condemns Paraguay for its treatment of Indigenous Peoples, 29 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca98981c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Amnesty International has urged the Paraguayan authorities to return land to an under-threat indigenous group, after a court condemned the government's treatment of the marginalised community. 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the Xákmok Kásek community should be allowed to live on its traditional land. Many community members have been forced to disperse to alternative sites due to inhumane living conditions. Paraguay is the only country in the Americas to have been condemned three times by this regional human rights court.

The community, which comprises around 60 families, has been denied access to the land for over 20 years and deprived of its traditional means of subsistence: hunting, fishing and gathering.

"The Paraguayan authorities have shown a shocking disregard for the well-being of its indigenous population. With every day that passes, the government is condemning these communities to a life of misery and threatening their survival," said Louise Finer of Amnesty International.

The Xákmok Kásek indigenous community, part of the Enxet ethnic group, is claiming 10,700 hectares of land, currently located within a private farm in the Paraguayan Chaco. It took its case to international human rights bodies after two decades of fruitless negotiations within the country.

In 2005 and 2006, the Court condemned Paraguay for the violation of the rights of the Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa communities, who are forced to live in poverty along the side of a highway because their ancestral lands are privately owned by others.

The Court gave the Paraguayan authorities three years to comply with these rulings. Both deadlines have long expired, but they have yet to return the land to the communities.

"It is deplorable that these two communities are still waiting for the State to take decisive action," said Louise Finer.

"This third ruling against the state - a record in Latin America - shows that instead of taking action to reverse the historic legacy of indigenous rights violations, Paraguay is allowing it to continue."

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruled in the Xákmok Kásek case that Paraguay violated the rights to life, legal protection and communal property of the community. It also found that the rights of the child and to non-discrimination had been violated.

It criticised Paraguayan authorities for their passivity, inactivity, lack of diligence and failure to respond to the Xákmok Kásek community's claims.

The Court found Paraguay legally responsible for the death by preventable causes of thirteen members of the Xákmok Kásek community.

Official statistics indicate that there are 108,600 indigenous people in Paraguay, representing 1.7 per cent of the population. In fact the figure is probably considerably higher.

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