UN expert warns that Peru’s forestry reform threatens Indigenous peoples’ rights

Geneva, Jan 31 (EFE).- An amendment to Peru’s forestry law could legalize and encourage the dispossession of indigenous lands, warned the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Calí Tzay, on Wednesday.

“This law will have a negative impact on the ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon,” the expert said, stressing that Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and first contact “may be particularly vulnerable to this regulatory change, which could threaten their physical and cultural survival.”

The Guatemalan expert, said that “approximately one third” of the Indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon have not received title to their lands which makes them specially “vulnerable to third parties.”

And although the text of the law explicitly mentions Indigenous and peasant communities, it has not been subjected to a consultation process to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous communities affected, as is their right under Peru’s 1994 signing of International Labor Organization Convention 169.

In fact, a recent ruling by the Peruvian judiciary reaffirmed the right of Indigenous peoples to prior consultation before laws affecting them are passed.

Calí Tzay has also warned that certain provisions of the Land Classification Law would allow areas inhabited by Indigenous peoples that used to be forests but where agriculture is currently carried out to be automatically reclassified as “agricultural exclusion areas.”

This classification, according to the UN Rapporteur, could contribute to putting pressure on indigenous territories which would in turn lead to “impunity for crimes such as illegal logging” and others that affect the conservation of the Amazon in Peruvian territory.

The rapporteur warned that the law is a setback for forest governance in the country, where Indigenous and environmental defenders are victims of constant threats, attacks and assassinations.

In recent years, he added, 33 Peruvian Indigenous leaders have been murdered.

“These reforms seem to ignore that territorial dispossession is the engine of violence against Indigenous leaders and implies a withdrawal of the state in rural areas,” where the vacuum is filled by criminal groups dedicated to illegal logging, informal mining and drug trafficking, Calí Tzay denounced. EFE


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