Mercedes Julia Huenteao Beroiza et al. Petition 4617/02. Report Nº 30/04 [ENG]
Complaint alleging violations of indigenous peoples rights. Precautionary measures to prevent irreversible damages. Friendly settlement agreement. Acknowledgement of compensation for damages. State commitment to adopt general measures to strengthen indigenous rights.
The Mapuche Pehuenche people of the Upper Bío Bío sector, in the Eighth Region of Chile, started a long fight to defend their rights when the Government of Chile authorized the construction of hydroelectric plants that would have deep consequences on their ancestral land and culture. After filing complaints with several agencies, including the World Bank Inspection Panel, the Ombudsman of International Financial Corporation at World Bank, and domestic courts, a group of indigenous families filed a complaint against the Government of Chile with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) for having authorized ENDESA to build a dam (Ralco) that would destroy indigenous land in an irreversible, permanent manner, threatening the Pehuenche culture. The IACHR requested the State to refrain from adopting any measures until it issued a decision on the matter at stake. In the meanwhile, works for the Ralco dam went forward: having started in 1998, 75-80% of the project was completed. In October 2003, the parties reached a friendly settlement. The families assigned their right to their ancestral land, which would be flooded by the dams, and accepted to withdraw all legal actions. In return, the families were granted quality land, technical support to promote agricultural production, education scholarships and a compensation of US$300,000 per family. Furthermore, the State committed itself to adopting general measures, such as a constitutional reform to legally acknowledge the indigenous peoples and ratification of ILO Convention No. 169, as well as to refrain from authorizing large projects, particularly hydroelectric projects, in indigenous land in the Upper Bío Bío sector.
Keywords: Mercedes Julia Huenteao Beroiza et al. Petition 4617/02. Report Nº 30/04, Land, Rights, Natural, Resources
In October 2005, the applicants requested the IACHR to urge the Government of Chile to fully comply with all items in the friendly settlement and to submit a report on its fulfillment of the obligations adopted before the IACHR.
Petitioners: Mercedes Julia Huenteao Beroiza, Rosario Huenteao Beroiza, Nicolaza Quintremán Calpán, Berta Quintremán Calpán and Aurelia Marihuan Mora, represented by Centro por el Derecho Internacional Ambiental (CIEL) (http://www.ciel.org).
This case shows the key importance of having access to an international protection mechanism when national authorities fully ignore fundamental rights of vulnerable sectors such as indigenous peoples. Ultimately, the case also illustrates the history of a group of indigenous families who fought to defend their rights and obtained compensation for the damages and injustice they had suffered.