The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held its first hearing highlighting the role of businesses in violations against Indigenous activists working on land, environmental, and cultural rights.
During the 156th session of the IACHR, which featured the participation of a coalition of 39 organizations from across the Americas, represenatives presented findings from a new report covering 17 countries that detailed the role of corporations in violations against human rights and land activists.
“Through our analysis as a broad coalition we were able to present the Commission with evidence of a pattern of attacks against defenders of the rights of land, territory and the environment across the Americas, with examples of clear collusion between businesses, the State and even organized crime groups aimed at silencing defenders,” said Ben Leather of the International Service for Human Rights.
At the public hearing, activists recommended the IACHR to hold a meeting to bring together land activists and corporations to discuss the responsibilities of corporations toward ensuring a safer climate for land defenders.
Responding to the testimonies, IACHR President Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said the hearing exposed the “breadth and depth” of the problem faced by land activists, noting that there exists “a clear pattern of persecution” across the region.
During Tuesday’s event, representative Danilo Chammas from the Brazilian organization of Justiça nos Trilhos highlighted the additional risks faced by Brazilian land rights activists involved in campaigns against transnational corporations.
Chammas cited findings from the coalition report which found that in the first three months of 2015 23 people were killed in conflicts related to land and territory in Brazil. He specifically highlighted the role of corporations in illegal land grabs and environmental destruction, citing the recent case of Brazilian mining firm Vale, which was recently ordered by a Brazilian court to suspend its activities until it provided proper compensation to local Indigenous communities affected by mining activities.
The court found that Vale mining operations polluted rivers with heavy metals, affecting the health of three villages inhabited by the Xikrin Indigenous peoples. The court ordered Vale to pay US$300,000 a month to each of the villages until remedial action is taken.
Meanwhile, Eliazer Lopez, a member of the Guarani nation, also warned there is a “genocide against the Guarani people of Kaiowa,” pointing at the assassinations of many of their leaders, hundreds of suicides and hunger-caused deaths.
The Guarani, who after decades of crisis have a suicide rate 34 times higher than Brazil's national average, are facing an assault on their ancestral lands by large-scale agribusiness companies, warned Survival International.