On July 15th, 2022, the Pirá Paraná Indigenous Council, in collaboration with the Association of Indigenous Traditional Authorities of the River Pirá Paraná, initiated a ‘tutela’ proceeding against private corporations and Colombian authorities. This expedited legal procedure is only available when regular mechanisms are deemed inadequate to ensure the protection of the plaintiffs’ rights. The legal action arises from concerns related to the Baka Rokarire project, particularly its carbon credit initiatives, within the Indigenous territory situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, located in the Vaupés region. The central issue at hand is the potential violation of Indigenous fundamental human rights, including self-determination, self-governance, and the preservation of cultural diversity and integrity. The claimants argue that the individual who represented the Indigenous community in the project lacked proper legitimacy, while public authorities allegedly failed to safeguard Indigenous rights throughout the project’s registration and development. Private companies are accused of neglecting human rights due diligence standards and deliberately excluding Indigenous authorities from the decision-making process.
The plaintiffs argue that the Baka Rokarire project, especially its carbon credit initiatives, violate their fundamental human rights as Indigenous people. Importantly, the lawsuit filed by the Pirá Paraná community does not contest land ownership rights but instead focuses on preserving the integrity of the territory, which holds great cultural and ancestral significance for Indigenous populations. Their primary concern centers around the absence of genuine Indigenous representation in the project’s agreement. Furthermore, they accuse public authorities of failing to fulfill their responsibilities in safeguarding Indigenous rights during the project’s registration and execution. Private companies involved are accused of neglecting human rights due diligence standards and intentionally excluding Indigenous authorities from the project’s development. The main argument is that the potential negative impact on Indigenous rights justifies legal intervention.
Initially, based on the subsidiarity of the tutela mechanism, the Judicial Court deemed the case inadmissible, citing that the plaintiffs could have pursued other available legal avenues. The court’s rationale was that the tutela mechanism was not the suitable course of action in this instance, as there was no clear evidence indicating the presence of irreparable damage in the case. The Administrative Tribunal upheld this decision. However, in April 2023, a significant development occurred when Colombia’s Constitutional Court took the unprecedented step of reviewing the case. This marks the first-ever evaluation of a case involving the voluntary carbon market, potentially setting a legal precedent that will delineate the boundaries of activities permitted within territories inhabited by Indigenous communities in carbon credit projects. The Constitutional Court’s review will also encompass an examination of whether the tutela mechanism is the appropriate means for challenging these projects, especially concerning Indigenous rights. This decision to review represents a noteworthy opportunity to provide clarity regarding Indigenous rights and cultural preservation within the context of carbon offset initiatives.
The case documents are accessible via Climate Case Chart: Click here.
Status of the case:
The case is currently pending before the Constitutional Court of Colombia.
05 October 2023.