QUITO, ECUADOR – Deep in Ecuador’s northern Amazon rainforest live the Tagaeri and Taromenane Indigenous nations, the last two communities in the country who have never set foot outside of the jungle. They have long resisted all outsiders’ contact and continue fiercely defending their remaining territory.
But over the years, three massacres in 2003, 2006 and 2013, have whipped out dozens of Tagaeri and Taromenane people. At least two of these attacks were perpetrated by some members of the Indigenous Waorani nation, who share territory and heritage with the Tagaeri and Taromenane. In the latest 2013 massacre, two young girls were also kidnapped and have been living with their captors ever since.
These acts of violence are the basis of a case currently being evaluated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, one of the three regional human rights tribunals. In the case Tagaeri & Taromenane Indigenous people vs the Ecuadorian state, lawyers representing the communities in voluntary isolation say the Ecuadorian state has failed to protect these populations and propelled the extractive industry in the area, putting pressure on the rainforest and increasing conflict between local communities.
This is the first time the regional court has tried a case involving uncontacted Indigenous peoples or peoples in voluntary isolation, setting an important precedent for similar communities in the Amazon.
“The state is obliged to generate conditions of peace within the area based on respect for the rights of all. We consider that this duty was violated,” Mario Melo, an environmental lawyer part of the legal team representing the Tagaeri and Taromenane, told Mongabay.
The state insists that it has supported human rights in the region by increasing protected areas and investing millions of dollars in reforestation projects. It also maintains that fighting and revenge killings are a common practice among the Waorani and uncontacted communities, not a cause of the oil industry or a failure of the state itself.