REPORT 58/09
PETITION 12.354
ADMISSIBILITY
KUNA OF MADUNGANDÍ AND EMBERÁ OF BAYANO INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND THEIR
MEMBERS
PANAMA
April 21, 2009
I.

SUMMARY

1. On May 11, 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the InterAmerican Commission", "the Commission" or "the IACHR") received a complaint presented by
the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the Washington College of Law, Centro de
Asistencia Legal Popular (CEALP), Asociación Napguana, and Emily Yozell (hereinafter "the
petitioners"),1 on behalf of the indigenous peoples Kuna of the Madungandí and the Emberá of
Bayano and their members, (hereinafter “the alleged victims”), against the Republic of Panama,
(hereinafter the “Panamanian State”, “Panama” or the “State”).
2. The petition alleges that the construction of the Bayano Hydrolectric Dam, which resulted in
the flooding of the ancestral territory they used to inhabit, violated the collective rights of the
Kuna of Madungandí and Emberá of Bayano peoples because: the alleged victims were not paid
the full amount of compensation agreed to by the State; the lands currently inhabited by the
Kuna of Madungandí have not been demarcated or protected; the territory occupied by the
Emberá of Bayano has not been recognized; the intrusion by colonists into the lands presently
inhabited by the alleged victims has generated a situation of constant conflict; and because
indigenous culture has not been respected. The petitioners allege that the State of Panama is
responsible for the violation of the rights enshrined in Articles 4 (right to life), 7 (right to personal
liberty), 10 (right to compensation), 12 (freedom of conscience and religion), 17 (rights of the
family), 19 (rights of the child) and, 21 (right to private property) of the American Convention
on Human Rights (hereinafter the “Convention” or the “American Convention”). They also hold
that the State disregarded Articles I, III, V, VI, VII, XI, and XIII of the American Declaration of
the Rights and Duties of Man (hereinafter “the American Declaration”).
3. The State, for its part, asserts that the petition should be declared inadmissible because no
violation exists of the alleged victims’ human rights on account of the fact that it has met their
demands through various agreements and resolutions and that they have been compensated for
being moved off their lands. The State also argues that the rule of prior exhaustion of domestic
remedies set forth in Article 46(1)(a) of the American Convention has not been met.
4. Having examined the positions of the parties and the requirements set forth in Articles 46 and
47 of the Convention, and without prejudging the merits of the matter, the Commission
concludes that the petition is admissible with regard to alleged violations of Article 21 of the
American Convention, in conjunction with Article 1(1) of same. Furthermore, under the principle
of iura novit curia, the Commission will, in the merits stage, analyze if a possible violation exists
of Articles 2, 8(1), 24, and 25 of the American Convention. The Commission concludes that the
petition is inadmissible with respect to Articles 4, 7, 10, 12, 17, and 19 of the Convention and
inadmissible with respect to Articles I, III, V, VI, VII, XI and XIII of the American Declaration.
The Commission has decided to notify the parties of this decision, publish it, and include it in its
Annual Report to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.
II.

PROCESSING BY THE COMMISSION

A.

Processing of the Petition

In a letter received on October 30, 2008, the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the Washington College of Law
informed that Chief Félix Mato Mato, legal representative of the Madungandí Reserve designated the law firm of Rubio,
Álvarez, Solís & Abrego as their new representatives.
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