Highlights — 07 May 2013 — by Adele Ramos
IACHR calls out GOB over Maya land rights

“Ultimately, the Government and Maya will have to sit at the table and talk. They will have to come to some kind of resolution on the issue… The Maya people are not going anywhere.”
– Antoinette Moore, SC

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued a statement today, calling out the Government of Belize for having allowed private companies to carry out oil exploration and exploitation and logging activities in the traditional lands of Maya communities under permits issued by State authorities without first consulting with the Maya.

“Specifically, the information indicates that illegal extraction and destruction of natural resources from traditional Maya lands in the Toledo District has taken place recently with the alleged collaboration and/or acquiescence of State agents,” the IACHR statement went on to say.

The IACHR noted that Belize also failed to report to a working meeting on the Maya land rights case this March.

It also expressed concern over reports of a newly-granted logging concession in traditional Maya lands without the required consultation. (See press release elsewhere in this edition of Amandala.)

Maya Leaders Alliance spokesperson Cristina Coc told Amandala that they made the request for IACHR intervention. The MLA’s main concerns continue to be the petroleum and logging concessions that Government has issued without consulting the Maya, but also Governments’ non-compliance and non-reporting on the issues.

The MLA’s attorney is Antoinette Moore, SC. Moore told Amandala that the responding ministry would be the Attorney General’s Ministry, which represents the Government of Belize in civil legal matters. In this case, said Moore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is headed by Attorney General Wilfred Elrington, could also be responsible for attending the March meeting of the regional human rights entity.

Moore said, “…we are pleased that the IACHR made a statement, so the government is aware that their actions are being observed.”

She added that the Government of Belize is still required to adhere to the Supreme Court judgment delivered by former Chief Justice Conteh, declaring customary land rights for the Maya in Southern Belize, and the Government should also be bound by the international and regional recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and by the IACHR themselves.

“Ultimately, the Government and Maya will have to sit at the table and talk. They will have to come to some kind of resolution on the issue,” said Moore. “The Maya people are not going anywhere.”

Meanwhile both the Government of Belize and the Maya of Southern Belize await a decision from the Court of Appeal, after the Government of Belize appealed the Conteh ruling.

Moore said that they have no idea when a decision will be read. The next Court of Appeal session, she said, opens in June.

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