Ecuador: Native community defeats government in court, gets oil exploration barred

Quito [Ecuador], Apr 27 (ANI): The native Waorani community on Friday (local time) fended off major degradation of their lands at the hands of oil companies by defeating three government bodies in court, for conducting a faulty consultation process with the people before putting their land up for sale in an international oil auction.
The ruling suspends, with immediate effect, any chance of selling off Waorani land for oil exploration, according to Al Jazeera. Hailing the court’s judgement, Nemonte Nenquimo, who is one of the Waorani plaintiffs and representative of the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza (CONCONAWEP) said, “Today, the courts recognise that the Waorani people, and all indigenous peoples, have rights over our territories that must be respected.”
“The government’s interests in oil is not more valuable than our rights, our forests, our lives,” she further stated.
The Waorani sued three government bodies — the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, the Secretary of Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Environment — earlier this year for undertaking faulty consultations with the community back in 2012, before listing their land for sale in an international oil auction.
Both national and international law mandates the government to hold consultations with the native community before planning any extraction process on either their land or near their territory. However, a free, prior and informed consultation process should take place.
The Amazon rainforest was divided into 16 different oil blocks and listed for sale in an international oil auction, as a result of the 2012 consultations held between the Ecuadorian government and the Waorani and seven other indigenous communities, according to Al Jazeera.
During a three-day trial held earlier in April, elders from the community outlined how the consultations were mostly used to promote oil extraction, rather than warning the communities of its environmental effects.
At Friday’s ruling, the judges enumerated the ways in which the consultations were inadequate and violated “the community’s right to self-determination.”
“This is undoubtedly a historic day for the advancement of rights and constitutional development in Ecuador,” Lina Maria Espinosa, the Waorani’s lawyer said.
The landmark ruling sets a powerful example for other indigenous communities in Ecuador in keeping oil extraction out of their territories. (ANI)

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