ethnic groups. In the Chaco-Salteño Region, fiscal lots 14 and 15, there
are approximately 45 indigenous communities (numbering between
6000 and 7000 people), who belong to nine indigenous villages, and are
living together with 2600 criollos (persons of non-aboriginal origin).
The petitioners maintain that, although the national
Constitution and the Constitution of the Province of Salta3 recognize
indigenous peoples' communal possession and ownership of the lands
they have traditionally occupied, and guarantee their participation in the
management of their natural resources and other interests affecting
them, to date those rights have received no legal recognition.
As of its first response, the State offered to make itself
available to begin a friendly settlement procedure with the petitioners,
through the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), for the
purpose of recognizing community possession and ownership of the
lands on which these communities were living, pursuant to Article 75
(17) of the national Constitution. The petitioners agreed to initiate a
friendly settlement procedure at the end of 2000, on condition that the
State first stop the construction works that gave rise to this complaint,
and that it undertake no new surveys and subdivisions, until an
agreement could be reached on how the lands in fiscal lots 14 and 55
should be distributed.
In July 2005 the Province of Salta called a referendum, to
be held in October 2005, whereby residents of the Department of
Rivadavia were to indicate whether they were in agreement that the
lands corresponding to fiscal lots 14 and 55 should be turned over to
their current occupants. That move, together with the lack of consensus
on the manner in which the land should be turned over to the
indigenous communities, led the petitioners to break off the friendly
settlement procedure that had been underway for five years.
With respect to admissibility, the petitioners argue that
their petition is admissible because domestic remedies have been
exhausted: they cite the lack of consultation with the communities, and
invoke the exception of Article 46.2 of the Convention to the
requirement of exhaustion of domestic remedies, on the grounds that
Argentine law offers no effective procedure to delimit, demarcate and
grant ownership of indigenous lands under "single title" (título
2 Article 75 (17) of the National Constitution of Argentina..
3 Article 15 of the Constitution of the Province of Salta.