In February I noted that a Brazilian court had suspended plans to build the Belo Monte dam, a giant project in the heart of the Amazon. Back in November, several groups also filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights charging that the dam would violate indigenous rights and other human rights protections. This week, we learned that the Inter-American Commission issued a preliminary order requesting that Brazil suspend the project; our partner Amazon Watch issued a press release yesterday.
The Inter-American Commission is one of the two major human rights bodies of the Organizational of American States (OAS). The Inter-American Commission has jurisdiction over all OAS states–which includes nearly every country in the Western hemisphere–but its decisions are not legally binding. Many countries do take the Commission’s findings seriously, but only the Inter-American Court of Human Rights can issue binding judgments.
On the Belo Monte dam, the Commission issued what are known as “precautionary measures.” Essentially, they are asking Brazil to take steps to avoid causing harm to the petitioners before the Commission can have a full hearing on the case. We hope that Brazil follows the Commission’s guidance; mega-dams projects should not be rushed into, especially in a region as ecologically fragile and with such human significance as the Amazon.