Suspension of Belo Monte Called For by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Grey dolphin in the Amazon river

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS), has officially requested the Brazilian Government to immediately suspend the Belo Monte Dam Complex in the Amazonian state of Pará, pending proper consultations with potentially affected indigenous peoples living in the Xingu river basin.

Belo Monte would negatively impact indigenous peoples and other traditional communities in the Xingu River basin, particularly those living along a 100km-stretch of the river known as the Volta Grande (Big Bend) that would be diverted into artificial reservoirs, depriving them of water and fish.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) confirmed that the Brazilian Government failed to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior, informed, and culturally appropriate consultation regarding the project, as required by various international agreements.

The IACHR recommendations make a similar argument to a number of lawsuits brought by the Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office in Pará, charging that previous consultations held with indigenous people were never carried out, as required by the Brazilian Constitution, and that the government never in fact achieved consent.

The government of Brazil responded defensively to the commission's recommendation, with officials and politicians stating that the ruling was "absurd," "precipitated," and "unjustifiable."   Several Brazilian civil society groups that signed the petition, as well as the Federal Public Prosecutors' office, issued statements questioning the government's defensive response while calling for the IACHR decision to be respected.

International Rivers is working with Amazon Watch , the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense, the Xingu Alive Forever Movement and other civil society groups in Brazil to  convince the Brazilian government to comply with the IACHR request.