Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a precautionary measure on December 2, 2017, to protect the life and physical integrity of the inhabitants of the communities of Cuninico and San Pedro in Loreto, Peru. The matter is included in an application for precautionary measures presented on behalf of a group of several communities that allegedly have been affected by crude-oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon region, along several stretches of the Norperuano pipeline.
Having analyzed the allegations of fact and law presented by the parties and the information the IACHR obtained during a July 2017 visit to the area, the Commission concluded that the information available shows, prima facie, that the matter meets the requirements of seriousness, urgency, and irreparability set forth in Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure.
In making this determination, the Commission took into account that, according to information presented by the applicants, following an oil spill that took place in 2014, the alleged contamination continues to have effects, notwithstanding the passage of time and measures adopted by the Peruvian State. According to the applicants, this situation can be verified by the presence of certain heavy metals, such as cadmium and mercury, above recommended levels. The IACHR was also informed that these higher-than-recommended levels were verified in some judicial decisions in Peruvian courts. The applicants alleged that various illnesses or afflictions associated with these impacts are consistent with the potential effects of prolonged exposure to such elements, and therefore immediate measures must be adopted to protect their rights.
Consequently, the Commission requested that the State of Peru adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and physical integrity of those who live in the identified communities. This should include conducting the necessary diagnostic medical tests to determine the degree to which the beneficiaries may have been poisoned by heavy metals or other substances, so as to provide appropriate medical care, in line with the applicable international standards in this area. In addition, the State should provide special attention to children as part of this process. The IACHR also asked the State to ensure that the members of the communities have access to potable water that is free of contaminants and to a diet that is nutritionally and culturally appropriate and within the levels considered acceptable by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Finally, the IACHR asked the State to report on the measures it adopts to mitigate any effects on human health that may result from the sources of risk that led to this precautionary measure. Any measures should be adopted by agreement with the beneficiaries and their representatives.
The granting of the precautionary measure and its adoption by the State do not constitute a prejudging of any eventual petition that may come before the inter-American system alleging violations of rights protected in the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the respect for and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.