Inter-American Court of Human Rights Publishes Landmark Ruling on Indigenous Peoples and the Right to Environment

On April 2, 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case Lhoka Hanhat vs. Argentina. The Lhoka Hanhat is an Indigenous association located in the northern part of the country, near Bolivia and Paraguay. The case focuses on the right to communal property of Indigenous Peoples and is the first time the Court analyzes the rights to environment, food security, cultural identity and water under the scope of Art. 26 of the IACHR (on progressive development relating to socio-economic rights). Among the reparations awarded, the Court ordered the state to remove the settlers (criollos) from the Indigenous territory within six years. The territory encompasses approximately 643,000 hectares.

The Human Rights Clinic of the HRREC, in partnership with the Due Process of Law Foundation of Washington DC and other organizations, submitted an amicus curiae for this case in March 2019. In its decision, the Court acknowledged the relevance of the amicus submitted to decide over the expansion of social rights of Indigenous Peoples. In their separate opinions, Judge Sierra Porto and Judge Ferrer Macgregor expressly recognized the importance of the amici submitted by different organizations and the role that academic institutions have in strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System.

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