Xákmok Kásek Indigenous Community v. Paraguay

Indigenous community Xákmok Kásek brought an action against the government of Paraguay before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for failure to meet its international responsibility of timely granting the community members’ request in 1990 for a guarantee of their right to their ancestral lands. Because the government had failed to process their request, the community was forced to live on land unfit for hunting, fishing, and gathering (the community’s principal means of survival) and in poor living conditions, lacking access to sufficient and adequate food, medicines, and “sanitary needs,” threatening members’ survival. The Community also did not have water distribution services. The health of the Community suffered as a result of limited access to health care, transportation, medication, basic vaccines and primary care. Illnesses such as tuberculosis, diarrhea, Chagas disease, and epidemics were commonplace. Children also frequently suffered from malnutrition.

The Community alleged that because of the vulnerable state in which they were forced to live, the government was responsible for the deaths of 28 members, including children and pregnant women.

The Inter-American Commission found the government of Paraguay in violation of Articles 3 (right to judicial personality), 4 (right to life), 8(1) (right to fair trial), 19 (rights of the child), 21 (right to property), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention of Human Rights (American Convention) and issued recommendations. However, upon the government’s failure to comply with the Commission’s recommendations, the Commission brought the case before the Inter-American Court, requesting that the Court find the government of Paraguay responsible for the violations of the rights mentioned above. Members of the community added to the request that the Court find Paraguay in violation of Article 5 (right to humane treatment) of the American Convention.