Remarks on the judgment of the Inter-American Court in the Lhaka Honhat vs. Argentina case

Angel Cabrera*, Daniel Cerqueira**, and Salvador Herencia-Carrasco***

 Versión en español aquí.

On 6 February, 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) issued a judgement in the case of the Indigenous Communities Members of the Lhaka Honhat (Our Land) Association, vs. Argentina. The ruling reiterates the inter-American standards on communal land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples. This is a landmark decision establishing that economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (ESCER) of indigenous peoples are autonomous and judicially enforceable rights before the IACt-HR. Although the main controversy revolves around the absence of land titling, the petitioners alleged a series of impacts derived from grazing activities, illegal logging, and the installation of fences by non-indigenous people in the territory of the communities.

This article analyses the most relevant excerpts of the ruling, highlighting controversial aspects over the judicial enforceability of new rights recognised under Article 26 of the American Convention (ACHR), related to economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights (ESCER). We also comment on important advances in the area of reparation and obligations to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights in the face of environmental degradation perpetrated by settlers. Finally, we briefly comment on the contribution of the amici curiae in the reasoning present in the sentence and votes of Judges Ferrer Mac-Gregor and Sierra Porto.

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