Constitutional Court ruling in favor of the Kichwa communities of the Cuembi Triangle – Putumayo

The Constitutional Court concluded that Ministerial Agreement No. 080, issued by the Ministry of the Environment, is unconstitutional for violating the rights of indigenous communities.

The Constitutional Court of Ecuador declared the unconstitutionality of Agreement 080, issued by the Ministry of the Environment, through which 104,238 hectares of the Cuembí Triangle, in Sucumbíos, were delimited as Forest and Protected Vegetation.

The Court adopted the decision, considering that the Agreement violated the constitutional rights of indigenous communities to be consulted before the adoption of any normative measure; not to carry out military activities in their territories without their consent; and to the possession of their ancestral lands.

The Constitutional Court has stated that the agreement is unconstitutional for violating the rights of indigenous communities to:

Be consulted before the adoption of a legislative measure that may affect any of your rights;

Limit military activities in their territories;

And maintain possession of their ancestral lands.

The Ministerial Agreement, signed in 2010, declared the Cuembí Triangle, in the Putumayo canton, border with Colombia, as Protective Forest, without having previously carried out a prior consultation process, despite the fact that it was a site considered ancestral by the Kichwas and Siona indigenous communities.

After ten years of struggle from more than 23 indigenous communities in the area, they have finally received the sentence of the Constitutional Court of Ecuador.

This sentence declares unconstitutionality of Agreement 080 of the Ministry of Environment, issued on May 13, 2010, with which the 104,238 hectares of this area were declared as Protective Forest and Vegetation, without the consent of the indigenous communities of the area and putting their survival is at serious risk due to the breakdown of the traditional activities of these communities.

The Constitutional Court, in a ruling issued on July 1, 2020 and released on the 24th of the same month, provides:

1.-Declare the unconstitutionality of Ministerial Agreement No. 080 issued by the Ministry of the Environment on May 13, 2010 and published in Official Registry No. 239 of July 20, 2010, with deferred effects, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 158 of this judgment.

2.-Grant the Ministry of the Environment a maximum period of one year from the notification of this judgment to issue a ministerial agreement to replace Ministerial Agreement No. 080, carrying out the corresponding pre-legislative consultation with indigenous communities, communities, towns and nationalities whose rights may be affected by the content of the agreement

3.- To order that, within six months after the issuance of this judgment, the transition from the surveillance of the protective forest of the military personnel to the personnel of the Ministry of the Environment be made.

4.- Urge the communities in the Cuembí Triangle area to collaborate in the consultation process to be developed by the Ministry of the Environment in order for the declaration of the Cuembí Triangle as a protective forest to guarantee the rights of nature and at the same time the towns and communities settled in the area.

5.- Provide that, in the process of consulting the communities in the Cuembí Triangle area, the Ombudsman’s Office acts as guarantor that the consultation is carried out under the terms of this judgment;

6.- Order the Ministry of the Environment to report quarterly to this Court about the measures that are adopted for the execution of this judgment and, in particular, to make the consultation effective.

7.- To urge the National Assembly, when issuing the organic laws that regulate the right to pre-legislative consultation, in compliance with the provisions of Judgment 38-13-IS / 19, to consider the parameters established in this judgment. In particular, the National Assembly shall consider the obligation to carry out pre-legislative consultations prior to issuing any regulatory act that may restrict the rights of indigenous communes, communities, peoples and nationalities.

8.- Send an attentive official letter to the President of the National Assembly of Ecuador so that he may distribute this judgment to all the members of the legislative body.

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