UN Human Rights Committee will Question U.S. on Sacred Sites and FPIC


April 25th, 2013:  The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on December 16, 1966.   It went into legal force on March 23rd, 1976.   The United States of America is one of the 167 countries, called the “State parties”, which have ratified the Covenant.  

The ICCPR is legally binding on the State parties.  State parties are required to undergo periodic reviews of their compliance with the Covenant, usually every 4 - 6 years.  The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) is the Treaty Monitoring Body for the ICCPR.  The HRC conducts periodic reviews of the State parties and makes recommendations to the States about how to improve their compliance and better fulfill their legal obligations under the Covenant.  

The HRC consists of 18 members representing all the UN regions.   They are nominated and elected by the State parties to the Covenant.   The HRC members are independent experts (not representatives of their respective countries) and serve in their individual capacities.  For a list of current HRC members see: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/members.htm.

Reports submitted by the State parties under review, provisional agendas and other relevant documents for the next session, including submissions by Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples, are posted on the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights website, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/.   Recommendations and concluding observations of the HRC addressing the State parties’ compliance are also posted after the reviews. 

During its 107th session ending on March 28th, 2013, the HRC determined the issues which will be the focus of their review of 8 countries at their 109th session from October 14th – November 1st, 2013.  The United States will be reviewed at that time.   The list of issues for the US review is posted on the HRC web page, under 107th session, information on the US.      

In December 2012, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the United Confederation of Taino People, with input from Indigenous Peoples, Nations and organizations in California, Hawaii, Alaska and New Mexico, submitted two proposals for issues to be addressed during the US review.  These focused on Article 1 of the Covenant addressing Self-Determination and Articles 18 and 27 addressing Language, Culture and Freedom of Religion for “minorities” and highlighted the relevant provisions in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Note:  as a UN Standard drafted in the 1960’s the term “Indigenous Peoples” was not used in the Covenant, however the HRC now uses this term).  

The HRC accepted the recommendations submitted by IITC et al pertaining to Article 27 of the ICCPR, and has drafted questions for response by the US and Indigenous Peoples as follows:

27.                Please provide information on measures taken to guarantee the protection of Indigenous Sacred Areas, as well as to ensure that indigenous peoples are consulted and that their free, prior and informed consent is obtained regarding matters that directly affect their interests. Please provide information on steps taken to implement Executive Order 13175 on Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments.  

The HRC will accept alternative or “shadow” reports with information in response to these questions and related concerns from Indigenous Peoples, Nations, Tribes and organizations as well as from Civil Society.  The alternative reports are due by September 1st for the October session.  The HRC requests information that is “as specific, reliable and objective as possible”, identifying the submitting non-governmental organization (NGO) or Peoples.  Anonymous information is not accepted.  Check the HRC web page on for additional information and guidelines on submissions by NGO’s and Indigenous Peoples.    

IITC plans to co-coordinate submission of a joint Indigenous Peoples "shadow report" on threats to Indigenous Peoples sacred areas, cultural rights, the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent and other relevant concerns for the US review.  On request, we will provide technical assistance and information to Indigenous Peoples and organizations who want to submit their information and issues as part of the IITC joint shadow report or on their own. 

As a reminder, we are also preparing for the periodic review of the US by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Treaty monitoring Body for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  The CERD will review the US again in early 2014, and we are beginning to work on those submissions as well.   Contact IITC for information on that process, which will also address the protection of Indigenous Peoples Sacred Areas and Cultural Rights, Treaty rights, Environmental Racism and a number of other issues.  IITC has an on-line handbook on using the CERD including its urgent action process which we will provide upon request.    

If you are interested in receiving more information, scheduling a presentation or training, or contributing to the joint Indigenous Peoples shadow report for the HRC focusing on sacred areas, cultural rights and Free Prior and Informed Consent please contact:

IITC Legal Counsel Danika Littlechild, danika@treatycouncil.org 
Consulting Attorney June L. Lorenzo (Southwest Sacred Areas),
IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen, andrea@treatycouncil.org    

IITC looks forward to working with you on this important opportunity to address issues of vital importance to Indigenous Peoples and to participate in an international process to hold the US accountable to their human rights obligations.


Latin America and the Caribbean Indigenous Peoples Prepare for World Conference

Guatemala City, Guatemala (UCTP Taino News) – Indigenous Peoples from throughout Latin American and Caribbean are meeting in Guatemala to discuss and organize regional perspectives on the upcoming United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. Supported by the Government of Guatemala, This preparatory meeting began on April 11 with a Mayan blessing ceremony lead by Felix Sarazua, a Maya Spiritual Guide.  The meeting will end on Saturday, April 13, 2013. 

The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples is a part of a global preparatory process toward the United Nations General Assembly high-level plenary entitled the “World Conference on Indigenous Peoples,” scheduled to take September 2014.  Some of the themes being discussed in Guatemala  include the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Indigenous perceptions of land and territories; the post-2015 UN Agenda; and the a strategic plan for the World Conference. 

Among the invited delegates attending the meeting in Guatemala is Roberto Mukaro Borrero, President of the United Confederation of Taino People (UCTP). Borrero is representing the Confederation and the Caribbean Amerindian Development Organization (CADO). 

“From the start of this process the UCTP and CADO have been concerned with the lack of effective participation of indigenous Caribbean Islanders during these important preparatory stages” stated Borrero. The UCTP and CADO jointly submitted their concerns to the Latin American and Caribbean Coordinating Committee as well as the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus.

In its resolution (A/RES/66/296), the UN General Assembly decided that the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples would be held on 22-23 September 2014 in New York at UN Headquarters. A goal of the World Conference is to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of Indigenous peoples, including to pursue the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Ponce de León, Exposed

THIS week is the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s purported discovery of Florida. Commemorations include the unveiling of “The First Landing,” a larger-than-life statue of Ponce in Melbourne Beach, as well as the introduction by the Postal Service of “La Florida,” a four-stamp series timed to honor what is being presented as the founding moment in our country’s history. These celebrations are a fiesta of illusion...

Read the full story at UCTP Taino News

Cuban Natives Brought Jade from Guatemala

Havana (Prensa Latina) - The Cuban aboriginal Tainos used jade probably introduced from Guatemala, as the geological record in eastern Cuba and the Dominican Republic show, Antonio Garcia Casco, of the University of Granada, Spain, stated. The professor, of the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology of that institution, has studied the geological traces showing the exchange of Taino peoples with the mainland for several years.

The evidence found up to now deny the image we have of these pre-Columbian peoples, as minor cultures, said Casco who works together with Reinier Rodriguez Ramos, an archaeologist at the University of Puerto Rico, Corinne Hofman, of the University of Leiden, in Netherlands, and experts from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The paper "Revealing the pre-Columbian routes of jade in the Caribbean: a case study in the forensic geology with geological and anthropological implications" was presented by Casco during the 5th Convention on Earth Sciences, Geociencia 2013.

As of year 400 B.C., Araucanian people came and brought ceramics using the Guatemalan jade, Casco said.

Source: Prensa Latina