Victory! Brazil Supreme Court Affirms Indigenous Land Rights

Victory! Brazil Supreme Court Affirms Indigenous Land Rights

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December 11, 2008

Indigenous people are celebrating after a majority of Brazil’s Supreme Court judges ruled to uphold indigenous land rights in Raposa-Serra do Sol.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, eight of the courts’ eleven judges yesterday “affirmed the Indians’ rights to the land, saying it had been demarcated according to the constitution,” explains Survival International. “They [also] affirmed the importance of maintaining indigenous territories as single, continuous areas and stated that territories on Brazil’s borders do not pose a risk to national sovereignty. [which various authorities have claimed]”

While a final judgment won’t be handed down until the remaining judges give their oral arguments, “the majority rules in the Supreme court”, Al Jazeera points out, which means the Indigenous people in Raposa and throughout the country have won a major victory.

Indigenous leaders and activists around the world have maintained that this case, no matter its outcome, would have far reaching effects on Indigenous land rights. The most immediate concern, that is, beyond the danger to indigenous rights if the court ruled against the demarcation, was that it would have justified the deplorable use of violence on part of the non-indigenous farmers currently illegally occupying the territory.

Earlier this year, in an attempt to event their eviction as ordered by the President in 2005, the farmers barricaded themselves into the territory, set up roadblocks, burned at least three bridges and attacked indigenous people with rifles and home-made bombs.

With the yesterday’s decision all but official, the farmers will once again have to vacate Raposa-Serra do Sol. Moreover, “The Brazilian government must now make sure that the farmers leave the area and that the campaign of terror against the Indians ends,” comments Stephen Corry, the Director of Survival International. “It must also ensure that Indian land rights are upheld nationwide, so that never again will we see such blatant attacks on Indians on their own land.”

Visit Survival International for background and more information. Photo: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

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