Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Indigenous peoples of Peru unite to denounce imminent legal reforms that threaten land rights

28 Abril de, 2015

In a statement published in a national newspaper, the council of AIDESEP, which represents over 1800 communities in the Peruvian Amazon called for the repeal and shelving of recent legal reforms being pushed through Peru’s parliament that threaten to further weaken indigenous peoples’ rights to land in favour of development projects. They also announced that they will file a formal complaint to the Inter American Development Bank’s (IDB) complaint mechanism if promised changes to a nationwide land titling programme remain undelivered.

Law 3941 could, if approved, equip the government with wide ranging powers to privilege and expedite requests by development projects for use rights over land classified as ‘State owned’. AIDESEP point out that this could result in the seizure of those indigenous lands which remain untitled and which they currently estimate extends over 20 million hectares. Furthermore, even those lands that are titled are at risk as loopholes in the law classify all forest land as State owned.

In a letter (Spanish only) written to the President of the Peruvian cabinet and Congress and the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples they insisted on the shelving of Law 3941.

We face before us a violation of our rights and dispossession on three fronts. A) A legal dispossession which will block legal recognition [of our lands] and the fundamental freedoms of our communities; b) Territorial dispossession as it will break up our land titles into pieces to avoid affecting lands expropriated for infrastructure [projects] or will continue to slow down the titling of indigenous lands for another 20 years; c) Economic dispossession as it will expropriate parts of our territories with no payment whatsoever and will cancel any future compensation or indemnity payments for use of the lands”.

The statement also announced their intention to pursue national and international legal actions to repeal Law 30230 which was approved in July 2014 and which grants the government wide ranging powers to modify the boundaries of privately held lands in the interests of large scale investment projects. Again, indigenous peoples fear this is a pretext for further dismantling and weakening of indigenous peoples’ land rights.

Finally they announced a 15 day ultimatum to the Peruvian government and the IDB after which they will file a formal complaint at the Independent Complaints Mechanism (ICIM) of the IDB if commitments made to incorporate their concerns are not met. As reported previously, the $80 million land titling project financed by the IDB threatens to further undermine indigenous land rights by privileging the land titling of over 700,000 individual plots of land in the Amazon over and above the pending applications of indigenous peoples that extend to approximately 20 million hectares.

As highlighted by one of the council’s resolutions, the complaint will serve to 'correct the project’s errors, avoid violations of indigenous rights, prevent the invasion of settlers and destruction of the Amazon and resolve the contradictions [of the project] as the IDB-PTRT3 project will nullify any reductions in deforestation offered by the IDB’s Forest Investment Programme.'