Supreme Court backs Wichí­

October 1, 2003

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The Wichí­ Indians of northern Argentina have won a resounding victory after a seven-year legal battle with the province of Salta. The dispute began when a logging licence was issued to an Argentine company, Los Cordobeses, which owns land next to the Wichí­ community of Hoktek T'oi. Despite the fact that the area is a vital part of the Wichí­'s ancestral territory, the province issued the licence without any consultation with the Indians. It was not long before much of the land had been completely destroyed.

The Wichí­ and their lawyers (partly funded by Survival) then embarked on a marathon battle to have the deforestation declared illegal. Although the province threw up repeated legal obstacles to frustrate the Indians' action, the case finally reached the Argentine Supreme Court. The Court has now ruled that such licences cannot be awarded without the participation of the tribal people whose land it is. The Wichí­ hope this verdict will prevent similar disasters happening in the future.

After the verdict the Wichí­ said, 'For all your support and solidarity over the last seven years' struggle to defend our land rights, the Wichí­ of Hoktek T'oi send you greetings of affection and joy.'