High court rejects government appeal to allow oil exploration on indigenous Amazon land

Nov 29, 2019 | 8 comments

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by the Attorney General and the Ministry of Energy to overturn a ruling by a provincial court preventing oil drilling on Amazon ancestral lands of the indigenous Waorani community.

Waorani members celebrate following court decision.

A three-judge panel ruled Thursday that the government did not prove that its rights and interests had been violated in a July ruling that upheld the Waorani heritage claim over 180,000 hectares of Amazon jungle.

In their statement, the judges said that the government failed to prove that the lower courts had erred in supporting the rights of the Waorani. “The attorney general did not construct a clear and sequential argument to explain how the government’s interests were violated by omission or actions by the judicial authorities.”

The government was appealing a July Pastaza Provincial court ruling that upheld an April decision by a lower court prohibiting the government from pursing oil exploration on 180,000 hectares of Amazon territory claimed by the Waorani nation. According to the Waorani and their supporters, the land in question is 90 percent virgin jungle.

In the April ruling, a court in Puyo ruled that the government used “deceptive tactics” in gaining approval for oil exploration from a small number Waorani members. In later deliberations, the community decided that the government had misrepresented the terms and conditions of the oil operation and that the community members who were consulted did not have the authority to grant oil rights.

The government claims that the decision could damage Ecuador’s ability to attract oil and mining companies considering working in the country.

The Waorani celebrated the court’s decision, saying it ends the government’s claim on oil rights in its territory. “We are gratified that the judges have closed this case based on our heritage rights and that there can be no further appeals to intrude on our land,”

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