Yakye Axa Indigenous Community of the Enxet-Lengua People v. Paraguay

Yakye Axa Indigenous Cmty. of the Enxet-Lengua People v. Para., Case 12.313, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., Report No. 2/02, OEA/Ser.L./V/II.117, doc. 1 rev. 1 (2003).
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This case was heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Their opinion is available here.

Leaders of the Yakye Axa indigenous community of the Enxet-Lengua people filed suit against the Republic of Paraguay claiming that the Paraguayan State violated Articles 4 (right to life) and 25 (judicial protection), in conjunction with Article 1(1) (obligation to respect rights), of the American Convention on Human Rights and, in addition, that the State ignored Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter “the ICCPR”) and Articles 1(2), 2(1), 4(1), and 5(a) of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 concerning tribal and indigenous peoples to the detriment of the indigenous community, by failing to provide it with comprehensive assistance during the processing of its claim over traditional territories, failing to conclude the administrative processing of its bid to recover those lands, and by preventing it from conducting its traditional subsistence economic activities — hunting, fishing, and gathering.
Petitioners claimed that where they lived was inadequate — “automobile exhaust fumes and the dust stirred up by the permanent flow of traffic has had a serious impact on the community’s most vulnerable members: its children and old folk.”
Petitioners also claimed that “most of the community’s children suffer from respiratory ailments, which are not attended to because of the lack of medical assistance and health care,” which was exacerbated by the food shortage resulting from the domestic courts’ order to refrain from hunting and fishing on the ancestral lands. Petitioners claimed that four members of the community died from bronchial and respiratory diseases.

The petitioners' complaint regarding the alleged violation of Articles 4, 21, 25, 8, and 1(1), to the detriment of the Yakye Axa indigenous community of the Enxet-Lengua people, is admissible.

Despite the State's express recognition, in the aforementioned decree, of the indigenous community's emergency situation, the "provision of medical and nutritional assistance" ordered by the President of the Republic for the community's families has been scant and insufficient.

The Commission notes that more than eight years have gone by since the representatives of the Yakye Axa indigenous community began proceedings to recover their ancestral lands and that, to date, the authorities have not resolved the matter; and that, with the application of the unwarranted delay exception, there has been no final decision under domestic law since exhaustion has been waived; consequently, the IACHR maintains that the petition was lodged within the "reasonable period of time" described by the Convention.

With respect to the bid to recover their ancestral territory, they say they began the relevant administrative and judicial procedures in 1993, but that the proceedings are nevertheless still pending, even though the Paraguayan Constitution recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples, which are defined as cultural groups predating the creation and organization of the Paraguayan State, and stipulates that it is the duty of the State to provide indigenous peoples with free community property "of an amount and quality adequate for the conservation and pursuit of their particular ways of life."

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