For over 40 years, the Costa Rican government has planned the construction of one of the largest hydroelectric dams in Central America. The plan has been modified several times due to serious criticism for its potential negative environmental and social impacts – especially on indigenous peoples. In 2008, the government of Costa Rica declared the Diquís Dam as being of public interest and national convenience, giving full support for its construction. The proposed Diquís Dam will flood more than 10% of the traditional and titled lands of the Teribe people and more than 5% of those of the Cabécar People. The Teribe people consider the Diquís Dam as a grave threat to their survival as a people, since the Teribe total around only 750 individuals.
The Teribe people have demanded respect for their human rights which have been openly denied by the government, especially with regard to their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC); the government has not even acceded to hold a consultation process with the Teribe.
Due to the threat of irreparable harms to their lands and their survival as a people, the Teribe referred to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), under the early warning and urgent action procedure. CERD expressed its profound concern for the lack of guarantees of the Teribe in this situation and requested that the government of Costa Rica ensures the effective participation of the Teribe people in decision-making, and defines how it will obtain their free, prior and informed consent.
Furthermore, in a study carried out by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas, it was determined that the Teribe suffer from serious human rights violations and this case is considered “as emblematic of the structural problems confronting indigenous peoples.”
The government of Costa Rica has not issued a public response to the letter from CERD nor to the Human Rights Clinic’s report. Members of the Teribe have resolved that if no response is received from the government they will use the available binding domestic and/or international remedies, such as the Inter-American human rights system and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).