IACHR Press Office
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of four indigenous Yanomami individuals by military officers in Venezuela. The Commission urges the State to investigate these events and to try and punish anyone found responsible for them, with an adequate focus on ensuring justice and culturally appropriate reparation.
According to civil society organizations, on March 20, 2022, there was a dispute between indigenous Yanomami persons and officers of Venezuela’s Air Force, after the latter refused to return an Internet router that belonged to the community. The clash happened in the Parima B area of the Alto Orinoco municipality, in the state of Amazonas, and left four adults dead and an adolescent injured.
The IACHR notes that Venezuela’s Amazonian region has high rates of violence and that indigenous peoples face specific risks since the creation in 2016 of the National Area for Strategic Development of the Orinoco Mining Arc. In its report , the IACHR stressed serious cases of violence perpetrated by illegal miners against indigenous peoples. In the case of the Yanomami people, several cases have even been documented of sexual violence against women and forced labor, which highlights the need to provide increased protection to indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact. Along similar lines, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stressed the high levels of violence—including sexual violence—in the area.
The IACHR notes that 16 Yanomami indigenous persons were murdered in 1993 in the Haximu region, allegedly by illegal miners known as garimpeiros. Following a petition, the Venezuelan State signed a friendly settlement agreement that was approved by the IACHR in report 32 of 2012, committing to increasing prevention, protection, and healthcare in this context.
The IACHR stresses that the State has a duty to launch prompt, serious, impartial, and effective investigations in all cases linked to extrajudicial killings. These investigations need to use all the judicial means available to establish the truth and to ensure investigation, prosecution, and punishment for all the perpetrators and masterminds of the killings in question, especially when officers of the State are or may be involved in them.
The Commission further calls on the relevant authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure redress for any harm done, with an intercultural focus that takes into consideration the impact on victims, their families, and their communities. The IACHR therefore recommends coordination and cooperation with the authorities of the Yanomami indigenous justice system, noting its competent jurisdiction in keeping with national law. International and inter-American standards acknowledge the justice systems of indigenous peoples and their jurisdiction as an expression of their right to self-determination.
The IACHR further reminds the Venezuelan State of its obligation to respect and protect from third parties the rights of indigenous peoples to their land, territory, and natural resources. The Commission notes that, given the commitments Venezuela has made based on inter-American and international standards, the presence of military forces in indigenous territory must be agreed with the affected indigenous peoples in advance, through effective and appropriate consultation involving the institutions who represent these peoples. All measures taken to protect indigenous peoples must acknowledge their rights to their own culture, land, territory, natural resources, and self-determination.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.