Court rules in favor of Costa Rica’s Bri-bri Indigenous Group

Non-indigenous must vacate native lands.

A top court in Costa Rica has ruled that the ancestral lands of the Bri-bri indigenous people must be returned, handing one of the country’s most marginalized groups a legal victory.
On Sept. 12, the Contentious Administrative Court said that the lands must be returned to the indigenous group in the Keköldi Reserve, which was created in 1977, near the country’s Caribbean coast, after non-indigenous groups began settling on the land.
A lawyer for the indigenous group said that the ruling was “historic” and that the Bri-bri consider these lands to be sacred.
“The obligation to recover indigenous lands that are not occupied by indigenous peoples is set by international agreements, like [International Labor Organization’s Convention] 169 [on native peoples],” said Cynthia Abarca Gómez, president of the tribunal. “The president, as head of government, must adopt the necessary measures to organize the Keköldi indigenous people.”
Government agencies have one month to decide which individuals living on the reserve will have to evacuate.
Indigenous groups and the Costa Rican government have a tense relationship. Disputes over land and natural resources have sparked lengthy legal battles. The centerpiece of President Laura Chinchilla’s 10-year energy plan is the construction of the Diquis hydroelectric plant. The dam, which would become the largest in Central America, would flood around 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres), 800 (2,000 acres) of them indigenous. So far, a push for an indigenous autonomy law has failed in the National Assembly.
There are roughly 64,000 indigenous Costa Ricans, of a total population of 4.5 million.

For the original report go to http://lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6456

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