Indigenous human rights activists need better protection

International Day of the World's Indigenous People (August 9)

On occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (August 9), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) emphasizes the fact that native people who openly fight for the human rights of their communities in many countries of the world are often in great danger. "Indigenous human rights defenders are doubly threatened. They are not only pursued by the police, the authorities, landowners and industrial companies because of their commitment, being arbitrarily arrested, persecuted or even murdered: Since native peoples have no influential lobby in their own country, their persecutors tend to be particularly ruthless – and are often not even punished for their crimes," claims the human rights organization. "Unfortunately, many governments ignore the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1988), which ensures protection for human rights activists. It was only on March 21, 2013, that the UN Human Rights Council had unanimously reasserted the resolution for the protection of human rights activists. The Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, is also often ignored."

Indigenous communities often live in especially resource-rich areas. The mineral resources, exotic woods and also the entire territory whole territory – for industrial agriculture – are of great interest for governments and international corporations, but also for the drug mafia and illegal loggers. They try to get hold of these riches, regardless of the massively discriminated and marginalized indigenous communities. If indigenous human rights activists witness any injustice or try to defend the land rights of their communities, they are in serious trouble, like Benki Piyako from the Ashaninka people in the border region between Peru and Brazil. As in Chile between the Mapuche Indians and large landowners, the conflicts have often been simmering for decades or even centuries, causing deaths, arbitrary arrests and unjust court rulings against innocent people. 

The Adivasi – the up to 85 native tribes in India – have taken the initiative to educate themselves to be able to claims their rights more effectively, while politics and society are trying to counteract by showering the human rights activists with legal proceedings. In Russia, there are also indigenous peoples living on resource-rich stretches of land. "If we try to fight against major projects on our territory or start campaigns for more democracy, we are rigorously suppressed – often justified by an alleged threat to national security," says a representative of the indigenous umbrella organization.

"Just because these stories are little known, the federal government and the German companies who operate in these regions may not adapt to the behavior of the respective governments. Germany must try to ensure the protection of the indigenous human rights activist and advocate in individual cases by means of bilateral contacts, especially in the economic field", stated the STP. The human rights organization has issued a five-page memorandum to publicize some of the most blatant cases and especially threatened communities.