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Briefing provided to Colombian judiciary on land rights decree

Leigh Day lawyers, jointly with the Law Society of England & Wales, have provided an expert briefing to the Colombian judiciary in a case governing the land rights of indigenous people.

16 July 2020

The Colombian government issued a decree to redefine the boundaries of the ancestral territory of indigenous groups who inhabit an area known as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the north of the country.

However, a third party has tried to have the decree annulled and the case has been presented to the Colombian Council of State (Consejo de Estado - the highest judicial authority in Colombia for administrative law matters).

Leigh Day and the Law Society submitted a joint amicus curiae brief to the Consejo de Estado to help with their consideration of the case.

The purpose of the government decree which the third party is attempting to annul is to protect the ancestral territory of the indigenous groups – known as the Linea Negra - and to lay down various principles for the protection of their rights, including to use and manage natural resources and have access to sacred sites in those territories.
 
The attempt to annul the decree raises a number of issues which are governed by international legal instruments and which have been interpreted by the jurisprudence of international bodies and courts, including in particular the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. 

Leigh Day and the Law Society submitted the amicus curiae brief in order to highlight the relevant principles of International Law which the Consejo may take into account when considering the legal arguments in the case. 

The conclusion suggested in the amicus brief is that the decree as adopted is generally in line with international norms and that any annulment or amendment of the decree along the lines suggested by the third party petitioner could result in the international legal responsibility of the Colombian State for violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
 
The amicus brief was drafted by Paul Dowling and Karry Sanchez of Leigh Day’s International Department, together with Dr Marina Brilman – International Human Rights Advisor for the Law Society. 

Paul Dowling said:

“We were very pleased to be invited to offer our insight into this case and we hope that our analysis of the relevant principles of international law will prove helpful to the court.”

The amicus curiae was submitted on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

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