Last Updated on Monday, 24 July 2023, 19:53 by Denis Chabrol
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Monday appeared dissatisfied that little or no action has been taken to prosecute people at Chinese Landing who have been allegedly threatening and harassing Indigenous Caribs there if they are removed from gold-bearing lands, and has urged the Guyana government to take a three-pronged approach to addressing the concerns.
On July 21, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 41/2023, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing, who are currently at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their human rights.
“Having analyzed the submissions of fact and law presented in this matter, the Commission considers that the information provided shows prima facie that the identified members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing are in a serious and urgent situation, given that their rights to life and personal integrity are at serious risk,” the resolution dated July 21, 2023 states.
That Human Rights body states the fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the state does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the Inter-American System to allege that the rights protected by the American Convention and other applicable instruments have been violated.
The request for precautionary measures was filed by the Village Council of the indigenous Carib community of Chinese Landing, the Amerindian Peoples Association of Guyana and the Forest Peoples Programme was received by the IACHR on March 8, 2023.
The IACHR, which is an autonomous and principal body of the 34-nation Western Hemispheric Organisation of American States (OAS), notes in the resolution that it requested information from Guyana on March 23rd, 2023. Following a time extension that was requested by the State and granted on April 10th, 2023, a response was received on April 17th, 2023. Then, the applicants submitted additional information on May 22nd, 2023.
The petition indicates that the members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing are facing threats, harassment and acts of violence in the context of their opposition to mining activities in their lands. The representatives alleged repetitive incidents of threats and harassment, which would occur “daily” or “regularly”; informed on acts against persons in particular vulnerability such as aggression to a young man, attempted rape of a minor, and threat with a knife against an elder person; as well as the extensive use of firearms, with firing incidents. The beneficiaries have also received collective death threats, reportedly perpetrated by mine workers. For example, the Toshao, who is the leader of the community, was allegedly warned that if the village wins its lands back, the miners would not leave easily and people would die.
By its turn, the State informed on actions to mitigate alleged risks and investigate the reported situation. Between May 18th and 22nd, 2022, a patrol was deployed to conduct security threat assessments and disrupt any illegal activities. Between June 26th and 28th, 2022, authorities held several meetings with the various Village Councils and residents, including Chinese Landing, and the Police in Santa Cruz was given directives to conduct routine patrols within Chinese Landing. In addition, on March 26th, 2023, the Regional Commander along with the regional crime inspector and other members of the regional police force conducted follow up investigations at Chinese Landing to address the threat allegations.
The Commission says it took note of the actions informed by the State to investigate the beneficiaries’ risk situation. However, that body appeared unconvinced that decisive action was taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. “Nevertheless, while the IACHR valued these actions, it noted that they have not resulted in identifying suspects, the start of criminal trials, and/or holding perpetrators responsible. The Commission observed that several claims brought by the beneficiaries on risk events were dismissed by the State as misleading or for lacking evidence, without indicating that investigations have taken place,” the IACHR states.
Likewise, the IACHR says it took note of the seriousness of the information which indicated the involvement of State police force in the events of risk. In addition, the Commission says it noticed that the State has not informed on risk evaluations carried out in favor of the beneficiaries and their leaders, particularly considering the collective nature of the risk alleged.
Consequently, the IACHR requested that Guyana:
- take the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing identified as beneficiaries, with a cultural, gender-based, and age-appropriate perspective to prevent threats, harassment, and other acts of violence against the beneficiaries;
- consult and agree upon the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and
- report on the actions taken to investigate the events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure, so as to prevent such events from reoccurring.
The IACHR’s mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.