Ongoing Violation of Naso and Ngobe Peoples Rights

Ongoing Violation of Naso and Ngobe Peoples Rights

PHOTO: c/o
Support our journalism. Become a Patron!
February 16, 2010

A shadow report has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) detailing Panama’s ongoing breach of obligations to the Indigenous Naso and Ngobe Peoples, under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

Authored by the Alianza para la Conservación y el Desarrollo (ACD Panama), the 29-page report details Panama’s numerous violations of the ICERD, including their failure to recognize Indigenous territorial rights, their violation of the Naso and Ngobe’s Civil and Cultural Rights and their refusal to protect the Indigenous peoples from violence.

To demonstrate the “pattern of discrimination” and abuse, the shadow report focuses on three Naso and Ngobe communities:

First, the few Ngobe villages that live along the Changuinola River within the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, who are facing the destruction of their villages, and the loss of their food and water supplies to make way for the Chan-75 Hydro dam.

According to Cultural Survival, the Panamanian government has stepped up their effort to build the hydro dam since the 2009 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which called for the suspension of all activities connected to the project.

The Shadow report also focuses on the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy, who have been repeatedly “denied the recognition of a Comarca, or semi-autonomous territory, which Panama has granted to other indigenous groups,” explains the report. “Due to this lack of protection for their territorial rights, the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy have been repeatedly invaded and destroyed by employees of a ranching company that claims legal title to a portion of their ancestral lands.”

A situation that has been largely overlooked by the international community, the village of San San Druy was demolished in Nov. 2009, after the Ngobe refused an order to voluntarily abandon their territory. Since that time, says the World Rainforest Movement, the villagers have been living in protest camps both in Panama City (in Cathedral Square) and in San San Druy, where they continue to seek a solution to the land dispute.

Finally, the report looks at the struggle of Ngobe villagers in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, where, the report states, “a series of poorly drafted laws meant to encourage tourism development and real estate speculation in Panama has instead resulted in the dispossession and often violent eviction of indigenous Ngobe residents.”

“All three of these cases have resulted in threats and physical violence against indigenous
individuals and communities, sometimes on the part of a private party and sometimes by State police forces that the government of Panama has sent to aid private companies. In all three areas, houses, crops, and other property have been destroyed by heavy machinery. Police have occupied the areas in order to protect ‘private property interests.'”

Further, “Community members have lost their possessions and even been injured and hospitalized
as a result of police violence. Many families have been displaced and their standard of living has decreased significantly.”

While not explicitly mentioned in the report, at least two Ngobe have also been killed. The Spanish website Resistencia Naso reports that the body of an 11-year-old Ngobe boy was found in December 2009, on the property of a cattle rancher in Bocas del Toro.

The boy, who last seen heading into the nearby forest on Dec. 17, had two fatal machete wounds to his head and other wounds to his belly, his knees, and he was missing three fingers.

Several days earlier, according to the report, the foreman of one of the local cattle ranches threatened a group of kids who were playing in the forest, warning them that if he found them again he was “going to kill with machetes”. Around the time of the child’s death, a witness also saw three men wearing blood-stained clothing. All four men were questioned and later released by police. No arrests have been made.

According to a recent Press Release from the Naso, another Ngobe was murdered in December “at the hands of a farmer.” However, as with the case of the murdered child, no one has been arrested and the police have made no public statements.

In their statement, the Naso denounce Panama’s inaction toward these two murders and the ongoing abuses and violations of their human rights. They also call on the international community to assist in their efforts to steer the Panamanian government “in the right direction.”

Download the Shadow report:

What You Can Do

1. Sign a petition in support of the Naso communities of San San and San San Druy: Here’s some video footage of the eviction.

2. Send a letter to Panama’s environmental agency, ANAM (who first commissioned the dam), urging them to halt construction of the Chan 75 dam and set up a process that guarantees the Ngobe’s human rights. CONTACT: Javier Arias, General Administrator of ANAM – TEL: 507 500-0814 FAX: 507 500-0820 EMAIL:

If you know of any other petitions or ways to support the Naso and Ngobe Peoples, please leave a comment at:

We're fighting for our lives

Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.

independent uncompromising indigenous
Except where otherwise noted, articles on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons License