The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has condemned the Argentine state for violating the right of indigenous communities to their cultural identity, a healthy environment and adequate food and water, that tribunal reported on Thursday.
The court, based in the Costa Rican capital of San José, ordered specific action for the restitution of those rights, including access to food and water, reforestation and the recovery of indigenous culture in Argentina.
The case originated in a claim for the recognition of their land property rights by the Wichí, Iyjwaja, Komlek, Niwackle and Tapy’y indigenous communities in the northern province of Salta, bordering on Paraguay and Bolivia.
The indigenous plaintiffs claimed that their land had been occupied by other settlers with the state constructing an international bridge without prior consultation.
The Court said in a communiqué that "a constant indigenous presence has been established in the area at least since 1629."
The ruling determined that the state violated community property rights by not granting legal security to the original inhabitants and allowing the presence of non-indigenous settlers to be maintained.
The court further indicated that the indigenous communities have been claiming their property rights over their land for more than 28 years without the state attending to their demands.
According to the hemispheric court, Argentina does not have the right norms to guarantee communal property rights as practised by the indigenous.
Nor were the proper mechanisms for consulting the indigenous communities followed before constructing an international bridge in their territory, the ruling pointed out.
In its sentence the Court ruled that the illegal forestry, the cattle-rearing and the installation of barbed wire on the part of the non-indigenous settlers affected environmental assets, interfering with the traditional feeding patterns and the access to water of the native communities.
"That altered the indigenous lifestyle, harming their cultural identity," ruled the Inter-American Court.