Case of the Yakye Axa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleged that, by not respecting ancestral property rights, the Government of Paraguay threatened the Yakye Axa Indigenous Community’s access to food, water and health care, and survival in violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 8 (right to fair trial), 21 (right to property) and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights. The court noted several specific examples of dangers faced by the women of the Community, including instances in which a woman was threatened by a man wielding a shotgun and another in which a woman was sexually exploited by State workers. The court noted that Paraguay was obligated to take into account the economic and social characteristics, special vulnerability, and customary laws, values and customs of indigenous peoples in order to effectively protect them, and found that Paraguay’s delay in recognizing the Community’s leadership, legal status and claims to land violated the Community’s rights to judicial protection, a fair trial, property, and ultimately a decent life. The court also found that the Community had a right to be granted legal status in order to take advantage of its members’ full rights as a people, and that Paraguay’s ongoing refusal to recognize that status was a violation of this right. As such, the court ordered that Paraguay provide the Community – “especially children, the elderly and pregnant women” -- with reparations, including compensation, food and water, sanitation, access to health care, and rightful title to their traditional territory.

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