IACHR says the Yanomami and Ye’kwana people are in a grave situation in Brazil

The body, linked to the OAS, has issued a precautionary measure to the Brazilian state demanding that the country adopt all necessary action to protect indigenous lives

A line of Yanomami people during a meeting of Yanomami and Yek´wana leaders, in November 2019. Photo: Victor Moriyama/ISA A line of Yanomami people during a meeting of Yanomami and Yek´wana leaders, in November 2019. Photo: Victor Moriyama/ISA

On Monday 20th, the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), a body linked to the OAS (Organisation of American States) issued a resolution that stipulates precautionary measures for the protection of the Yanomami and Ye´kwana indigenous people

According to the IACHR these people are in a grave situation and are running the risk of irreparable damage.

The organ came to this decision subsequent to a  defiant message from the Hutukara Yanomami Association and the CNDH (National Human Rights Council), an institution linked to the Ministry for Justice and made up of civil society organisations, who drew attention to a petition sent to the Commission in June saying that members of the Yanomami Indigenous Land, composed of 321 villages, would be in an especially risky situation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, given their particular susceptibility to respiratory diseases and the rapid increase in contagion in their territory. 

The organisations also pointed to failures in the health system serving these people and their contamination with mercury caused by environmental damage caused by goldmining. They also stressed the illegal presence of around 20 thousand goldminers in the territory, who are accused of committing violent acts against indigenous leaders and of being responsible for contamination of indigenous land.

“The decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is, above all, an acknowledgment by the most important organisation in the region, of the gravity of the indigenous situation in Brazil, in the face of the pandemic, especially in the case of the Yanomami and the Ye’kwana.” Said Camila Asano, Programme Director at Conectas Human Rights and the organisation´s representative as advisor to the CNDH. 

“The country, as a signatory of the American Convention on Human Rights, is obliged to do its part and to follow IACHR observations.” She concluded.

In the precautionary measures, the IACHR calls on the Brazilian government to adopt all necessary measures to protect the health, lives and integrity of the Yanomami and Ye´kwana people. The Commission also states that actions implemented to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among indigenous people must respect the local culture. It was also requested that the state should agree which measures are to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives and that they should respond to the facts alleged by the CNDH and the Hutukara Yanomami Association.

A precautionary measure is one of the mechanisms that exists in international law and serves to protect and guarantee rights. The concession of this tool and its adoption by the country does not impede a possible petition to the Inter-American system by which the country has been asked to respond

to alleged rights violations. 

The IACHR is the principal human rights body in the continent and is independent of the OAS, the mandate of which is according to the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.

>>> Read IACHR resolution 35/2020 in full here

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