San Jose, Costa Rica, July 5, 2011. The Kichwa Sarayaku People, from the Ecuadorian Amazon, will denounce the violation of their rights before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR Court) during a public hearing that will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, July 6, and Thursday, July 7, at the court's headquarters , in San Jose, Costa Rica. The lawsuit against Ecuador is represented by the Association of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku (Tayjasaruta), the lawyer Mario Melo (Pachamama Foundation) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL, for its acronym in English).

The Ecuadorian State illegally concessioned the ancestral territory belonging to the community in favor of the Argentine oil company CGC in 1996. At the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, agents of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces and company workers forced their way into the territory to do seismic exploration work. The company opened trails, introduced highly dangerous explosives, and deforested forest areas, including trees and plants of sacred and cultural value to the community. In addition, Sarayaku leaders were threatened and harassed for their work defending the territory against the company's illegal entry.

To date, the State of Ecuador has not complied with the recommendations that were issued in 2009 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in this case. Nor has it complied with the protection measures ordered by this body to guarantee the life and physical integrity of the residents of the community, nor with the measures issued for this same purpose by the Inter-American Court itself.

During the hearing, several members of the Sarayaku will testify before the Court, including a traditional wise man, two leaders and a woman from the community. The declarants will narrate the facts, and will refer to the effects and threats suffered against their lives, their subsistence and their culture. The audience will also be attended by other members of Sarayaku, who traveled to Costa Rica to witness what they consider to be a moment of great importance for their people.

The hearing will also feature the statement, as an expert, of the current United Nations Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, who will refer to the issue of the rights of indigenous peoples within the framework of international law. The expert Rodrigo Villagra will also declare as an expert, who will provide an anthropological vision of the subject.

During the hearing, the representation of the victims will ask the Inter-American Court to determine Ecuador's responsibility for the violation of the human rights of the members of the community. It will also ask you to oblige the State to adopt the necessary measures to repair the damage caused, including the guarantees so that this type of violation is not repeated.

The Pachamama Foundation and CEJIL hope that the eventual sentence of the hemispheric court establishes valuable jurisprudence for the respect of the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the continent.

Press contact in Ecuador:

Joke Baert
jbaert@fundacionpachamama.org.ec
02 333 2245
09 135 6877

Attached for media use is a photo of the leaders and their attorneys.

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