Linda Manaka Infante, a Venezuelan lawyer and 2016 graduate of the LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law, spoke before the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations this May. The session was built around the theme “Indigenous peoples: conflict, peace and resolution.”
Ms. Infante has a particular interest in the rights of indigenous peoples, representing victims of human rights abuses before national courts and international human rights mechanisms, including both the Inter-American and United Nations systems. “When given the chance to speak at the Forum on Indigenous Issues,” Ms. Infante said, “I denounced problems in Venezuela like the disappearance of indigenous languages, including Baniva - my own language; the poisoning of Amazonian rivers with mercury by the illegal miners; and the hundreds of contracts the Government has signed with transnational companies to operate in indigenous territories without consulting with the indigenous peoples affected.”
The opportunity to speak at the UN forum was an important one for Ms. Infante, because international attention to the rights of indigenous peoples is rare. “The United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues is the only space available in the international organization to discuss the rights of indigenous peoples,” she explains. “Unlike other groups, like persons with disabilities, women, children, or migrant workers, the member states of the United Nations have not had the political will to develop an international convention on indigenous peoples that recognizes their human rights.” The UN adopted its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
More on the UN forum can be found here. Ms. Infante’s address can be viewed below.