23rd October 2014, Pucallpa: The Shipibo indigenous community of Korin Bari today filed a law suit against the Peruvian government for its failure to title its traditional territory resulting in the repeated invasion of community lands by illegal loggers and coca growers threatening the lives of community members who protest.
The community has presented formal applications for a land title in the Calleria river basin since 2010 but while the government has recognised the existence of the community its land title remains pending, exposing the community and its lands to continued insecurity. In 2011, community houses were flattened by logging operators who were bulldozing an illegal road through community lands to access the area’s valuable timber. Only last month and in a similar case, Edwin Chota and three other Ashaninka leaders from the nearby village of Saweto were murdered as a result of their efforts to try and secure legal title to their lands and evict illegal loggers.
The Peruvian government has been legally obliged for decades to ensure indigenous peoples’ territories are guaranteed both with legal measures to recognise indigenous peoples’ collective property rights over their traditional lands as well as with effective measures of protection. These commitments are enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which establishes that ‘Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired’ and that ‘States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources’ (Article 26).
In spite of this, the cases of Korin Bari and Saweto represent two of at least 594 communities in the Peruvian Amazon whose lands remain untitled, one element of approximately 20 million hectares of indigenous peoples’ lands which remain unrecognised in Peruvian law according to statistics compiled by AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous Amazonian organisation.
Robert Guimaraes Vasquez, Vice President of FECONAU, local indigenous federation supporting the village of Korin Bari and Saweto said in order to avoid a repeat of the tragic events in Saweto:
‘There are many communities in the same situation as Saweto, they don’t have property title, the Peruvian state has the obligation to guarantee the legal security of indigenous peoples lands and allocate the necessary resources to finalise this work’
A forthcoming study by AIDESEP and the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) shows that the government’s failure to ensure secure legal recognition of indigenous territories and to support community efforts to protect their forests is intensifying forest destruction. In 2012 alone this destruction reached over 250,000ha and is being driven by rampant illegal logging, uncontrolled illegal mining , the conversion of primary forest for palm oil plantations alongside the construction of roads and other infrastructure projects.
This failure to address deforestation and protect indigenous peoples’ rights is increasingly in the spotlight on the eve of the next UN climate conference to be held in Lima in December 2014.
Contact in Peru:
Robert Guimaraes (FECONAU): 00 51 990889774 , Conrad Feather (FPP) 0051 994449702 (English language press enquiries)
Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda, IDL (Institute for Legal Defense), 0051 997521685