Year: 2006 (Date of Decision: 29 March, 2006)
Forum, Country: Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Paraguay
Standards, Rights: Procedural fairness and due process; Right to life; Right to adequate standard of living; Right to adequate housing; Right to adequate food; Rights to water and sanitation; Indigenous people
Summary Background: The Sawhoyamaxa Community has historically lived in the lands of the Paraguayan Chaco, which since the 1930s have been transferred to private owners and gradually divided. This increased the restrictions for the indigenous population to access their traditional lands, thus bringing about significant changes in the Community’s subsistence activities and finally caused their displacement.
Holding: The Court found various violations of the ACHR, such as of article 8 and 25 (right to a fair trial and judicial protection), article 21 (right to property), article 4(1) (right to life), and article 3 (right to recognition as a Person before the Law), all of them in relation to article 1(1) (the obligation to respect rights) [paras. 112, 144, 178 and 194]. The Court ordered the Paraguayan government to adopt measures for returning the ancestral lands to the Community within three years [para. 215], to provide basic goods and services and implement an emergency communication system until they recovered their land [para. 230]. Moreover, a development fund for the Community in the amount of one million US dollars had to be created [para. 224], compensation in the amount of 20,000 US dollars was to be paid to the families of the 17 persons who died as the result of the forced displacement of the Community [para. 226] as well as for non-pecuniary damages, costs and expenses [para. 239].
Additional Comments: However, in the years following the judgement no progress was made toward the implementation of the judgements and the communities decided to unite their efforts and to ask Amnesty International to help them set up an international campaign designed to put pressure on the government.
The fact that the two communities were in the exact situation and undertook joint actions may have been an important factor in the enforcement process.
Link to Full Case: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/articulos/seriec_146_ing.pdf