Guatemala: Holding the World Bank Accountable for Human Rights Violations
The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) together with Rights Action and the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law has filed a Petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in an attempt to hold the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) accountable for human rights violations that occurred during the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam in Guatemala. In May 2012, the same organizations filed a Supplemental Brief to the Inter-American Commission that addressed various admissibility issues including jurisdiction over the Member States of the World Bank and IDB that have human rights obligations within the inter-American human rights system.
Several Maya Achi villages were forcibly evicted, some through a series of brutal massacres, to make way for the construction of the Chixoy Dam in the 1980s. The case highlights the complicity of international financial institutions (IFIs), in particular the World Bank and the IDB, in the brutal removal of indigenous communities from their lands in Guatemala.
According to Grahame Russell, Co-Executive Director of Rights Action, “Almost 30 years after the so-called completion of the Chixoy Dam project, no reparations or compensation have been provided, whatsoever, to the thousands of Maya Achi families, from 32 communities, whose lives and livelihoods were illegally harmed and destroyed.”
Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Director of the GI-ESCR, said that “Several States that make up the decision-making bodies at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have human rights obligations under the inter-American human rights system, including extra-territorial obligations, and there is sound legal foundation for holding them accountable for their roles in the egregious human rights violations that occurred during their management of the Chixoy dam project.”
While attempting to hold IFIs accountable for human rights violations before regional human rights mechanisms is novel, the case is grounded in the International Law Commission’s Articles on Responsibility of International Organizations as well as the recently adopted Maastricht Principles on Extra-Territorial Obligations. As the Petition argues, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank are made up of States, all of which have human rights obligations. These States should not be able to ignore, or indeed violate, these obligations simply by organizing themselves into international financial institutions or by using those institutions as agents to carry out policies or practices that violate their respective international human rights obligations.
Grahamme Russell added that the Petition would be supported by a grassroots effort to hold the Banks accountable as well as to ensure that the Inter-American Commission exercises its authority to hold Member States of the OAS that sit on the decision-making bodies of the Banks accountable for human rights violations.
View the Petition (Request for Appeal) to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights HERE.
View the Supplemental Brief to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights HERE.
NOTE: The Petition is an appeal of an earlier case brought before the Inter-American Commission and includes updated factual information and legal analysis. For more information on the human rights violations that occurred during construction of the Chixoy dam in Guatemala see: http://www.nlginternational.org/news/article.php?nid=8
For more ways to Take Action, see Rights Action.