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UN Reports on Indigenous Rights Neglect for Bri-bri Community

The U.N. Observatory of Human and Autonomous Indigenous Rights has stated the Costa Rican government has failed the Bri-bri community’s rights.
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The United Nations Observatory of Human and Autonomous Indigenous Rights recently released a report on an inspection of the Bri-bri community of Cabagra in Costa Rica, concluding that government has failed to act on an order to protect the indigenous community from violence by non-indigenous settlers on indigenous land.

“There is no attention and intervention by the State/Government to address the situation of the conflict, or the socio-economic and cultural situation of families in the Land Reclamation Camps. Indigenous women were reported to have no visits to the National Institute of Women (INAMU) – Social Services Offices of the Ministry of Health or other institutions,” concluded the observatory.

The inspectors reported that the indigenous communities perceive that the government does not act on the threats of violence aimed at them and that such cases are either ignored or shelved by the authorities. The inspection came after violent attacks on the Bri-bri community following the community’s attempt to recover land that was declared sovereign under the 1977 Indigenous Law.


Bri-bri community members were attacked with machetes and clubs and in at least one case a firearm after they set up encampments on land belonging to them.

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On April 7, 2016, some 30 armed attackers arrived at the indigenous encampment to eject the Bri-bri inhabitants; that resulted in Adilio Ortiz Torres, an indigenous member of the community, being shot in the hand and the leg by the attackers. The attackers, who have been identified by witnesses, remain free within the indigenous communities.

The report stated, "[The Bri-bri] expressed dismay, impotence and indignation at the little or no action taken by the authorities of the Government and the Courts in the face of the constant aggressions, threats and outburst on their land.” The report went on to discuss the fear and uncertainty in the Bri-bri communities following the latest attacks.

Costa Rican Minister of Communications Mauricio Herrera told ICMN that he had not seen the U.N.'s Cabagra report as of March 21.

The inspectors made a series of recommendations including:

  • To the Judiciary (Judges, Prosecutors and Defenders) acting to respect and strengthen national and international legal norms and protocols, in matters concerning Indigenous Peoples. Particular attention should be given to the need for timely and truthful information, with translators and accompanying trusted persons of the indigenous people involved in these judicial and administrative processes.
  • That the cases of denunciations for aggression against Indigenous Peoples be speeded up, so that the climate of violence based on impunity, which has become a practice in this area affected by violence and conflicts by Land Territory. The cases must also be streamlined in agrarian and administrative matters, which are to blame for the confrontation and are in turn root of many of the violent acts and crimes committed.
  • The Government (Executive Branch) should fulfill its duties of protection of indigenous territories, integrity and life, that is, with all the Human Rights of these Peoples, against land encroachments and conflicts; It should assume the Negotiation Process (in equal conditions and equality between the parties) in compliance with the deadlines to which it is committed.
  • The Presidency of the Republic should reform and improve the Protocol of Implementation and Compliance of Precautionary Measures IACHR, for Salitre and Térraba (where similar violent land disputes are taking place, and – due to the gravity of the situation in Cabagra – to expand the Protocol to this Territory, in order to inform, train and hold accountable officials and authorities of all public services related to these Indigenous Territories; As a public policy of containment and prevention of violence, especially the emergence and promotion of non-indigenous people with possession of land within the same territories.
  • Authorities should not grant non-indigenous people permits for logging, fishing or other activities that damage the nature (water, forests, fauna) within the territories, with the purpose of generating a dissuasive space to strengthen non-violence alternatives in Cabagra.

The Bar Association and the National Directorate of Notaries should investigate the notaries and attorneys of the country who have authenticated documentary contrary to the Indigenous Law and prohibited by this Law, which result in providing title to non-indigenous people in indigenous territory. In the cases that so merit, establish the corresponding sanctions for those professionals.