The government has lost a case in which it was accused of exploiting legal loopholes to sell land belonging to an indigenous Amazon tribe to oil companies last month.
Waorani, a community indigenous to Ecuador, protected their territory, which was about to be sold in an international oil auction to oil explorers by three government bodies.
The case’s outcome was shocking for many people, but it was a major win for the community and conservationists.
Best of all, this ruling gives other communities living in the area hope that they can protect their lands from getting into the hands of oil companies through illegal tactics.
One of the complainants in the case, Nemonte Nenquimo, said that the government had not shown as much respect for human life as it had shown for money and oil.
According to the Coordinating Council of the Waorani Nationality Ecuador Pastaza representative, the government attempted to sell its land to oil companies without the community’s go-ahead.
“Our rainforest is our life. We decide what happens in our lands.” Nenquimo said.
He also expressed his satisfaction with the court’s decision to protect the community’s treasured land. He was pleased to realize that the judicial system now recognized that the government’s desire for oil is not more important than the community’s rights.
Of the ruling, Oswando Nenquimo said that by winning the case, the community had “protected our forest from oil drilling… protected our water from contamination… protected our children from sickness.”
However, “the fight is far from over. The government will appeal because they still want the oil beneath our land.”
The case began with a lawsuit by the Waorani people in March of this year. But the issues that led to the lawsuit began back in 2012 when the government, through a “faulty consultation process,” decided to take the community’s land and auction it off to oil explorers.
As per international laws, an indigenous community should be consulted before extracting natural resources from their lands. But that is not the path the Ecuadorian government took, which is how they ended up in court and eventually lost the case.
The judges were quick to come to a decision. In just 3 days, they determined how the consultation process violated international law. For instance, there were no clear translations into Waorani during the process.
According to the community’s lawyer, Lina Maria Espinosa, the ruling shows that government development plans are not more important than the life and the integrity of the people.
The executive director of the Amazon Frontlines, Mitch Anderson, said that the ruling should help tribes protect their land in the future.
According to him, “This is a major precedent for the indigenous people across the Amazon… This is a huge step forward in the battle to ensure indigenous people’s rights over their lands are respected”
However, an indigenous community has won a similar case in the past against the Ecuadorian government. Last year, the Kofan community in the northern part of the Amazon won a case against the three government bodies that have now lost this case.