Amazon case verdict – Amazon: a threatened living entity

[Español] In the case “The Amazon: A Threatened Living Entity”, the Fifth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, by virtue of the hearing held on the 4th of November, 2021 in Glasgow, pronounces the following verdict:

TRIBUNAL’S DECISION

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal is founded upon existing normative frameworks of universal law, which are inviolable, non-negotiable, and applicable to all living beings. The Tribunal, applying the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth has found in this case serious violations of a number of the rights of Mother Earth and of some of the beings of which she is composed, including but not limited to the right to life and to exist (Art 2(1)(a); the right to be respected (Art 2(1)(b)); the right to continue their vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions (Art 2(1)(c); the right [of the Amazon region] to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being (Art 2(1)(d); the right to integral health (Art 2(1)(g); the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste (Art 2(1)(h) and the right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning (Art 2(1)(i)).

In light of these serious violations, the Tribunal demands respect for the rule of law, and therefore the Tribunal exhorts the States that conform the Amazon, to do the following:

Scale of the damages/impacts

The Tribunal rules for all those beings who have no voice: rivers, forests, animals, plants, and other beings that inhabit the ecosystems that make up the Amazon. Also for human beings, in particular for indigenous peoples and defenders of the Earth.

The scale of the cumulative impacts and damages of the extractive activities carried out and entrenched in the jurisdictions that make up the Amazonian biome ultimately constitute ongoing ecocide insofar as the magnitude of the deforestation, loss of biodiversity, contamination, drying of water sources, desertification and other impacts, gravely affect the natural restoration capacity of ecosystems and thus threaten Nature’s right to exist.

We emphasize that ecocide is at the very top of the hierarchy of crimes against the Rights of Nature and human rights. It is an attack on the human condition and the condition of nature. In the case of the damages to the Amazon, we see a crime of cyclical ecocide, the intensity of which worsens year after year with incommensurable accumulative effects, something which is taking the ecosystem to the point of no return; of making impossible the regeneration and existence of this ecosystem. Without a living Amazon, the fight against climate change is useless.

What is happening in the Amazon is causing the disappearance of peoples and cultures, therefore, this Tribunal resolves that a crime of ecocide is being committed due to the damaging of the natural systems that provide the conditions necessary for indigenous people to remain in their territories, particularly the indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.

In consequence, Tribunal condemns those directly responsible for the crimes of ethnocide, ecocide, and genocide against our Amazon and its peoples, namely: banks, financiers of these megaprojects in the amazon; transnational companies, including mining and agribusiness corporations; States, for permitting these criminal actions against the Amazon, violating international law and national legislation, and for the systemic violence that has installed itself in our territories, availing the actions of criminal organizations that operate at the fringes of the law and that invade the territories of the traditional peoples and are unpunished authors of murders and the kidnapping of indigenous leaders, activists, and defenders of human rights and the Rights of Nature.

The Amazon is a transboundary basin, so we urge the States that conform it to respect and fulfill their cooperation obligations concerning the Amazon following the principle of a shared community of interests and the precautionary principle in environmental matters, deepening a sustainable management of these unique and indivisible spaces across artificial national borders and promoting that the whole Amazon is recognized as a rights-bearing, entity.

The International Tribunal, founded on the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth, the rights that have been recognized internationally, and in consideration of the existing normative frameworks in domestic law, therefore, demanding compliance with the rule of law, urges the States that comprise the Amazon to adopt the following measures:

Measures for the recognition and guarantee of the Amazon as a Subject of Rights

  • Call for the instances of the recognition of the Rights of Nature in some regions to be extended throughout the Amazon.
  • Urge the Amazonian countries to promote the declaration of the Amazon as a subject of rights in their respective jurisdictions, enshrining this in their constitutions.
  • Demand that, as a subject of rights, the Amazon be represented in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through the indigenous, scientific, and defense organizations of the Amazon.
  • Express our support for the Chilean constitutional convention to advance the declaration of Nature as a subject of rights.
  • Modify national laws that promote the extractivist economic model to halt related damages.
  • Adopt laws that guarantee the effective protection of the Amazon as an ecosystem of universal importance.

Integral Reparation and Restoration Measures

  • Promote a differential Global Agreement specific to the Amazon.
  • Suspend all extractive activities and planned activities in protected areas in the Amazon.
  • Suspender los planes y actividades extractivas en curso sobre todas las áreas protegidas de la Amazonía
  • Declare a suspension of the expansion of extractive activities in the Amazon, at the same time establishing a zoning that permits, on the one hand, protecting the areas that still have not been affected, and on the other hand, reverting the process of damage that has transpired to date, favoring a real process of integral reparation in the medium term,
  • Establish intangible zones, especially in river headwaters, water recharge areas, and other areas defined as highly vulnerable, allowing only traditional or very low impact activities.

As for the specific cases we have heard, the Tribunal rules the following:

  • Exhort the Ecuadorian government to investigate the massive deforestation of balsa, which has even led to the disappearance of populations of this species in certain areas of the country, to regulate its extraction based on the regenerative capacity of the Amazon jungle.
  • Exhort the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change to analyze the case of the mass balsa deforestation in Ecuador to visualize the life cycle of renewable energies, in this case, for the construction of eolic windmills, and how the world cannot trust renewable energies as the sole solution to climate change, on the contrary, greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced and avoided and the real impacts of renewable energies to nature and its natural cycles need to be revealed, how they even exacerbate the underlying causes of climate chaos and deepens its impacts on affected territories.
  • Exhort the organizations of the Amazon basin to remain vigilant about the advancement of balsa deforestation and the expansion of tree monocultures used for the construction of wind turbines in China and other countries where this form of energy generation is increasing, and establishing spaces for the exchange of information on this phenomenon.
  • Exhort the Government of the People’s Republic of China to carry out an investigation into the sources of the balsa wood used as raw materials in wind farms, and to initiate a process of integral restoration of the deforestation provoked.
  • Exhort the government of Peru to revise the agreement-contract of the “Hidrovía Amazónica”, whose Environmental Impact  Study has not been approved; and the same for the construction of the 52 hydroelectric projects planned on Amazonian rivers.
  • Ban mining, one of the most polluting industrial activities in the world, from occurring in the heart of the last refuges of the world heritage of biodiversity.
  • Insist on compliance with the previous Tribunal’s judgement in defense of the Yasuni in Ecuador, suspending oil activities that are already entering the territories of peoples in voluntary isolation.
  • To decisively support the claims made by indigenous communities and settlers in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon in their just claim against the transnational in the Chevron-Texaco case; rejecting the arbitrary detention of the lawyer Steven Donziger, defender of said communities.
  • Reaffirm the judgment of the International Tribunal in the TIPNIS case, prohibiting the construction of the highway that will cause severe environmental impacts and serious damage to the indigenous peoples of such a biodiverse region.
  • Ratify the Tribunal’s decision in the case of the Amazon, Chaco, and Chiquitania forest fires in which it was determined that the crime of ecocide was committed and urge the Plurinational State of Bolivia to comply with the comprehensive reparation measures and guarantees of non-repetition.

Measure for the De-mercantilization of Nature

The Tribunal pronounces itself against all false climate solutions to save the Amazon that imply the mercantilization of nature, and, concerning this, resolves:

  • Demand the Green Climate Fund to suspend the USD 279 million loan for the Fund for the Sustainable Development and the Bioeconomy of the Amazon (GCF-BID) in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname, which unlocks private capital for mitigation and climate change adaptation in the Amazon, and that permits the financialization of activities and infrastructure projects that violate the Rights of Nature and indigenous peoples as so-called sustainable businesses.
  • Reject the “Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance” mechanism, known as LEAF, insofar as it only promotes new natural commodification mechanisms that will aggravate the collapse of the Amazon.
  • Call upon the governments of the European Union to reject the TLC EU-Mercosur, opposing themselves to the mercantilization of the Amazon.

Measure in Favour of the Indigenous Peoples as defenders of the Amazon

  • Recognize the original peoples of the Amazon as the main responsible for its protection, recovery, and restoration, dismantling all forms of neocolonial control.
  • Understand that the struggles of resistance and re-existence of these peoples are the main action against the effects of climate collapse worldwide; struggles that, moreover, offer powerful options to rethink life itself on the planet based on the visions and practices of sumak kawsay (Good Living or Living Well) and kawsak sacha (Living Forest).
  • Finalize the process of recognition, demarcation, and titling of Indigenous Territories, peoples, and traditional communities, in those countries where these legal processes are still pending.
  • Guarantee the territorial rights recognized by the Amazonian States in favor of indigenous peoples and communities while supporting indigenous autonomies as ways of promoting models that coexist in harmony with Nature, provide useful knowledge for restoration and balance with nature.
  • Prohibit high-impact extractive activities and the commercialization of natural spaces that make up the territories and areas occupied by indigenous and traditional peoples.
  • Sanction and eradicate violence, and prevent the invasion of indigenous territories by criminal persons or organizations, as well as by extractive companies.
  • Promote the holistic and comprehensive management of water to guarantee its social, cultural, and environmental functions.

Tribunal actions in the Amazonian territory

  • Promote an in situ visit of a delegation of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in the Amazonian territory to verify the serious evidence presented in this hearing, visit that should happen before the next FOSPA gathering in July 2022 en Pará- Brazil, in coordination with the organizations of the World Assembly of the Amazon.
  • Support on the ground initiatives that recognize the Amazon as a living entity and want to promote a new model of development, such as the Sacred Headwaters Initiative, or the ones that want to reveal the Amazon perpetrators and stop those harming the Amazon, such as the Amazon Exclusion Campaign and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • Call for a global boycott against all products that directly affect the Amazon and against the industries that promote them, and support those organizations that are already promoting this boycott.

5th International Rights of Nature Tribunal endorsing organizations

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