Chaini Parwani –
Published On: October 14, 2021 at 13:44 IST
In a landmark decision, the UN Human Rights Committee observed that Paraguay’s failure to prohibit and command the toxic contamination of traditional lands, due to the excessive use of pesticides by neighbouring commercial farms, violates the indigenous community’s rights and sense of ‘home’.
Committee member Hélène Tigroudja stated “For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole.”
The decision came in action from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay.
The area where they live was compassed by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans.
Fumigation occurred on a regular basis for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health.
“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee further stated.
The indigenous community lead the case to the Human Rights Committee after a prolonged and inadequate administrative and Judicial process in Paraguay’s courts.
Furthermore, Committee directed “More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay.”
Members found Paraguay did not creditably monitor the fumigation and failed to prohibit contamination.
Further adding to it the members stated that this failure made it possible for the large-scale, unlawful fumigation to continue for many years, demolishing all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.
The Committee highlighted that Paraguay should complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties accountable and make full compensations to the victims.
The authorities are also advised to take all obligatory measures, in close discussion with the indigenous community, to reconstruct the environmental damage, and to work to avoid similar violations from occurring in the future.