Friday, December 31, 2010

Global Article 9: Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Via Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War Newsletter #35 on December 30, 2010:
Ecuador's Peace Constitution paves the way to historic defense of nature's rights

Two years after Ecuador adopted its new peace Constitution - the first to ever grant and legislate rights to nature - a group of defenders of the environment are invoking it to file a groundbreaking lawsuit against British Petroleum (BP).

Article 71 of the Ecuadorean constitution reads: "Nature or Pachamama [mother earth], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies."

Using this unique clause, the plaintiffs accuse BP of having violated the rights of Nature by causing massive environmental damage, in particular in the context of the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit was filed by Defenders of Nature's Rights - a coalition of environmentalists and indigenous leaders from India, Nigeria, Ecuador and Mexico in Ecuador's Constitutional Court by citing its Article 71 and invoking universal jurisdiction.

Traditionally used to prosecute human rights violations committed by nationals or foreigners in any part of the world, universal jurisdiction will for the first time be invoked to protect nature's rights as granted by Ecuador's constitution.

"We see this as a test case of the rights of nature enshrined in the constitution of Ecuador, which is why it's about universal jurisdiction, beyond the boundaries of Ecuador, because nature has rights everywhere, " says Indian scientist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva.

"Ecuador, by putting the rights of nature [in their constitution], created history, and now there's legal ground to file these cases rather than letting those lines in the Ecuadorian constitution lie inert," she added.

According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Diana Murcia, "one of [the Defenders of Nature's Rights'] goals is to introduce Nature in the international debate as a rights-bearing entity."

"It is important we understand there's only one [mother earth (...) and that is why we have to join forces, to make the great changes that we want and make a new civilization (... ) that reclaims life itself, that reclaims collective responsibility, and that reclaims a new way of life in harmony with nature," stated Alberto Acosta, ex-president of the Constitutional Assembly in Ecuador.

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