Appeal to top human rights body on uncontacted tribes

June 15, 2007

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Peru’s national Indigenous peoples’ organization has made an urgent appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Latin America’s top human rights body, out of concern for some of the world’s last uncontacted tribes.

The tribes, including the Nanti and Machiguenga, are at huge risk from gas exploration taking place on their land, said a statement from the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP). This has ‘led to forced contact between the gas company workers and the uncontacted tribes.’

Located in Peru’s Camisea region, a reserve was created for the tribes in 1990 but gas exploration is still permitted there. There are reports of members of one uncontacted tribe being forcibly displaced from their homes and the use of megaphones and a helicopter to make contact with others.

The tribes are particularly vulnerable to any form of contact because of their lack of immunity to outsiders’ diseases. After being contacted for the first time in the 1980s following oil exploration on their land, more than 50% of the Nahua tribe died.

AIDESEP is urging the IACHR to request the Peruvian government to take specific ‘precautionary measures’ to protect the uncontacted tribes’ ‘rights to life, personal integrity, property, good health and well-being.’ The IACHR’s response is expected imminently.

AIDESEP’s appeal to the IACHR follows a similar move made by the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and its Tributaries (FENAMAD), the Indigenous organization in Peru’s Madre de Dios region where other uncontacted tribes have had their land invaded by illegal loggers. In response, the IACHR requested the Peruvian government to ‘adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the lives and personal integrity of members of the Mashco-Piro, Yora and Amahuaca tribes living in voluntary isolation in the Madre de Dios department.’

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru