Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay

146 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) (2006)

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Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v. Paraguay

Inter-American Court of Human Rights
146 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. C) (2006)

Facts

In 1991 members of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community (plaintiff) began living alongside a national road in Paraguay (defendant) to protest their ongoing displacement from their ancestral lands and their inability to pursue their traditional methods of making a living. Members of the community lived in a precarious state, lacking food and medicine, which placed their lives at risk. In fact, in a 12-year period, 31 community members died, including 20 children who died of preventable or curable ailments such as dehydration, tetanus, and pneumonia. Paraguay was aware of how precarious the situation was, at least as of April 1997, when community leaders sent authorities a report explaining that deaths were occurring in their communities, especially among children, due to lack of healthcare. Legislation granted free healthcare to indigenous peoples in public healthcare centers, yet many community members could not travel to the healthcare centers or afford lifesaving medicines at other medical facilities. For example, one mother took her two sons suffering from pneumonia to a hospital. The first son was not provided with any medicine while hospitalized for eight days because the mother could not afford it, and he died. The mother’s other son was simply discharged. Two years after the report was received, Paraguay’s president issued an order declaring that the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community was in a state of emergency. After the order, food, medicine, and educational supplies were delivered a few times. However, 19 people died in the six years after the order. Paraguay did not relocate community members to their traditional lands pending judicial proceedings. A nonprofit organization submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the commission). The commission referred the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which considered whether the right to life under Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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