Protected areas: Brazil: Supreme Court strengthens rights of indigenous people

Protected areas: Brazil: Supreme Court strengthens rights of indigenous people

The court reversed a regulation against the interests of indigenous peoples. The decision is met with relief in the community.

The Supreme Court in Brazil has struck down a land law that goes against the interests of indigenous communities. The court in the capital Brasília declared the regulation, which was intended to limit the designation of protected areas for indigenous people, to be unconstitutional.

The Constitution guarantees indigenous peoples the preservation of their social organization, their customs and traditions, their languages, their beliefs and traditions, as well as the right to the lands they traditionally inhabit, argued Judge Cármen Lúcia before casting her vote. Land ownership cannot be separated from the other guaranteed fundamental rights.

Joy about the decision

Numerous indigenous people celebrated the decision in front of the courthouse, as was seen on television. “I’m relieved that we’re getting our land back. We’ve been through a lot, I can’t describe what I feel,” said Jaciara Priprá from the Xokleng people.

The law stipulated that only land inhabited by indigenous peoples on the day the constitution was promulgated on October 5, 1988 could be designated as a protected area. Critics complained that indigenous people would then no longer be able to get back tribal areas from which they had already been expelled. Furthermore, there could be a legal basis for contacting isolated indigenous peoples, for example to “execute government measures of public benefit”.

Next week, the judges want to hear what this means for at least 226 cases in which private individuals or companies have illegally acquired indigenous land under the current law. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of indigenous land rights, landowners could be entitled to compensation if they are forced to return their property.

Source: Stern

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