ASIA: To guarantee the Human Rights of the indigenous communities require strong and functioning justice institutions

An Oral Statement to the 36th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre

Mr. President,

Asia’s indigenous communities have been facing horrendous forms of human rights abuses at least since the past 200 years. The end of the colonial era in the region has not improved their lot, since these communities, whether it be in Papua in Indonesia, or the Gond living along the Narmada river in India, or tribal communities in the hilly regions of Nepal or those living in Mindanao of the Philippines or the Balochi people in Pakistan, all have been systematically excluded by the so-called mainstreams in their countries.

The single largest impediment against respecting and realising indigenous rights in Asia is the failure of the justice institutions in the region to form the first line of defence when the rights of the indigenous communities are violated.

For instance, indigenous communities living along the Narmada valley basin in India have been forcefully displaced at least on three separate occasions within the past 65 years, without being consulted, adequately compensated or rehabilitated. The so-called development of India, literally has been at the expense and destruction of these tribal communities. Even the Supreme Court of India has been of no much help to them. Similar is the story the Papuans in Indonesia have to share, where their recent past is riddled with recurring instances of violence committed against them.

The ALRC is of the view that the domestic justice framework in Asia that is unable to protect the so-called mainstream population cannot protect the indigenous communities who are more vulnerable to systematic violence and exclusion. The ALRC, therefore, calls upon this Council to undertake detailed studies about the justice institution deficits that exist in the member states in the Asian region, and the need for institutional reforms addressed, without which no progress could be achieved to protect and promote the rights of indigenous people in Asia.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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