December 20th, 2008
In August 2001, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights rendered a historic decision in the case of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua. The court is the legal tribunal of the Organization of American States.
The Court found that Nicaragua had violated the rights of the community by granting logging concessions within its traditional lands and failing to recognize Awas Tingni property rights in those lands. The Court found that the right to property, as affirmed in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, protects the traditional land tenure of indigenous peoples.
This was the first case in which any international tribunal, with legally binding authority, found a government in violation of the collective land rights of an indigenous group. This case and situation sets an important precedent in international law.
The court decision and Nicaragua’s granting title to the Awas Tingni on December 14, 2008 marks the culmination of a decades-long struggle by the native group to gain recognition and protection of its ancestral territory. Nicaragua granted the Awas Tingni title to its ancestral territory in the Atlantic Coast region. The land consists of some 74,000 hectares of densely forested lands.
Read more about it.
The United Nations issued a press release on this subject.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Professor James Anaya congratulated Nicaragua on completing the demarcation and titling of the lands of Awas Tingni, a Mayangna community that is one of the many indigenous communities that populate the country’s Atlantic Coast region. The titling of Awas Tingni’s territory marks the culmination of a decades-long struggle by the community to gain recognition and protection of its ancestral lands.
The Special Rapporteur stated: “The titling of Awas Tingni’s lands reflects a commitment on the part of the Nicaraguan Government to implement the judgment of the Inter-American Court. In addition, it provides a model for other governments to comply with their international legal obligations to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands and resources in practice.”