Case of the Indigenous Community Yakye Axa v. Paraguay [ENG]

Complaint alleging the State's failure to acknowledge indigenous communities property rights over ancestral land. Protecting territory through right to private property. Violation of right to life by depriving communities of traditional means of livelihood. State obligation to adopt positive measures to fulfill dignified life standard. Priority treatment of vulnerable groups.

Date of the Ruling: 
Jun 17 2005
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Type of Forum: 

The Yakye Axa community, a Paraguayan indigenous community belonging to the Lengua Enxet Sur people, filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) alleging Paraguay had failed to acknowledge its right to property over ancestral land. Given its impossibility to solve the case, the Commission referred it to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court considered Paraguay had failed to adopt adequate measures to ensure its domestic law guaranteed the community's effective use and enjoyment of their traditional land, thus threatening the free development and transmission of its culture and traditional practices. The Court also concluded Paraguay had violated the rights to property and court protection, as well as the right to life, since it had prevented the community from access to its traditional means of livelihood. Furthermore, the Court understood that the State had failed to adopt necessary positive measures to ensure the community lived under dignified conditions during the period they had to do without their land. While they stayed on the side of a road across from the land they claimed, the community lacked adequate access to food, health services and education. Sixteen persons died due to the said living conditions. The Court concluded the State had the obligation to adopt positive measures towards a dignified life, particularly when high risk, vulnerable groups were at stake, whose protection became a priority. The Court ordered the State to demarcate the traditional land, to submit it to the community at no cost, and to provide basic goods and services necessary for the community to survive until they recovered their land.

Keywords: Case of the Indigenous Community Yakye Axa v. Paraguay, Education, Rights

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

The Inter-American Court stated that it would supervise enforcement and ordered the State to submit a report on measures adopted within one year after the decision was notified.

Groups involved in the case: 

Applicant: Tierra Viva a los Pueblos Indígenas del Chaco ( and Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL) ( on behalf of the Yakye Axa community.

Significance of the Case: 

The Inter-American Court has reaffirmed its wide interpretation of right to life taking into account health, education and food standards set forth in the Protocol of San Salvador. In its interpretation, the Court also considered General Comments by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the supervisory body of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.