No date yet for IACHR hearing on Isseneru land rights petition

No date has yet been set for a hearing of the petition by the Amerindian community of Isseneru, which last year asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to apply measures to uphold its rights over both titled and traditionally-owned lands, in light of concerns about mining claims and what it calls the failure of the authorities to protect its rights. Attorney for the Region Seven community David James told Stabroek News on Wednesday that they had submitted the information requested by the IACHR but have heard nothing as yet as pertains to a hearing of the case. After the submission of the petition, the Commission had requested further information from the petitioners and also from the government.

Villagers had said that they decided to send the petition to the Commission after they had exhausted all domestic remedies and after they found that the State had failed to offer protection in relation to their basic human rights. “Even before we took this petition to the Inter-American Commission, we had sought government intervention and we had made public the problems we had been encountering. These problems are documented in the petition and include, among others, the loss of our ancestral land to mining interests, pollution of our water ways, mercury contamination through mining, and health and social problems,” Dwight Larson, the secretary for the Region Seven village council, had said last year.

He had referred to a court ruling last January “where a miner was given rights to the land over us, even though we had been living there for generations.” They felt that the judiciary and the law failed the community by not offering justice in the case, he had said.

A High Court decision last January sparked protests by Isseneru villagers as well as indigenous groups and some Amerindian leaders after the ruling upheld a miner’s right to continue with operations on titled lands within Isseneru. Subsequently, the United Nations Com-mittee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) expressed concern over mining on titled land at Isseneru and another Amerindian community, Kako, and asked government to provide information on the cases as well as to review the granting of permits and concessions without obtaining the prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous communities.

Isseneru, an Akawaio indigenous community located along the Mazaruni River in Region Seven and non-governmental organisation the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) submitted a Petition for Precautionary Measures to the IACHR on August 26. Among other things, the Petition is seeking the Commission’s assistance “to reverse and repair the acts and omissions of Guyana that violate the rights of Isseneru and to ensure that its rights are recognised, secured and respected in the future.”

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