Defensor del Pueblo, doctor Jaime Córdoba Triviño (en representación de varias personas integrantes del Grupo Etnico Indígena U'WA) c/ Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y Occidental de Colombia, Inc. s. Acción de tutela. [ENG]
Amparo action against an oil project license. Right of indigenous peoples to participate through consultations in decisions that may affect them. Defense and preservation of indigenous land. Complaint before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights for failure to comply with decision.
The Ombudsman filed an amparo action against the Ministry of Environment and Sociedad Occidental de Colombia Inc. on behalf of the U'wa people. The presentation sought the revocation of a license granted to the said company to develop an oil project in indigenous lands, alleging the communities potentially affected by the decision had not been duly consulted before the license had been granted. The Constitutional Court found that the procedure implemented to issue the environmental license had not been adequate, and had ignored the U'wa community's fundamental right to be formally and substantially consulted. This decision was grounded on the principle that participation through consultation becomes a fundamental right, because it is an essential way to preserve the ethnic, social, economic and cultural integrity of indigenous communities and, thus, to ensure their survival as a social group. The Court ordered a consultation had to take place within 30 days.
Keywords: Defensor del Pueblo, doctor Jaime Córdoba Triviño (en representación de varias personas integrantes del Grupo Etnico Indígena U'WA) c/ Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y Occidental de Colombia, Inc. s. Acción de tutela, Indigenous, People, Right
In a parallel development, the U'wa people denounced the Colombian Government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) alleging the consultation had not taken place under adequate conditions, and the necessary measures to protect their personal, cultural, economic and environmental integrity had not been adopted. The IACHR was asked to adopt precautionary measures to prevent the oil project from being carried out in indigenous land, because the U'wa people consider its whole land -including the subsoil- to be sacred. A negotiation process was started to find a friendly solution to the conflict. See in this database Pueblo U'wa s/Medidas Cautelares ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos for the development of the friendly settlement process.
Applicant: Ombudsman on behalf of an indigenous community of the U'wa people (http://www.defensoria.org.co).
The Constitutional Court of Colombia has found that consultations are a fundamental right that is key to the protection of the U'wa people's substantive rights to their social, economic and cultural integrity. This decision is particularly important within Latin America, where oil projects are often developed in indigenous land without due respect for the communities' rights.