Eye on the Amazon

Sarayaku Celebrates Human Rights Victory

On the heels of their victory before the Inter-American Human Rights Court of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Kichwa of Sarayaku held a major celebration over the weekend on their rainforest lands. Sarayaku brought the case in 2003 against the government of Ecuador for rights violations related to oil drilling on their lands. The binding court decision found that the state violated Sarayaku's right to consultation when it signed an agreement with Argentine company CGC, and that the Ecuadorian military was guilty of rights abuses against the community.

On Sunday August 12, hundreds of members of Sarayaku that live dispersed throughout the community's 300,000+ acre territory, national indigenous leaders, neighboring indigenous nationalities, and ally NGO organizations descended on Sarayaku to hear analysis of the court decision and celebrate its implications. Several hours of meeting to digest the verdict gave way to an afternoon of revelry with drumming, singing, and dancing, fueled by fermented chicha, traditional libation of choice. The eight year long legal battle sets the stage for a new conflict on the horizon. A new government oil auction of 18 oil concessions – known as the XI Round – is set to open in October 2012, and would cover close to 10 million acres of primary forest and indigenous land, including all of Sarayaku territory.

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