World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank liable for Chixoy Dam atrocities and mass evictions.

World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank liable for Chixoy Dam atrocities and mass evictions, says a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as the Guatemalan Government, are liable to pay reparations for a series of massacres and human rights violations that occurred in the early 1980s in Guatemala, says a petition submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) submitted the petition on behalf of the survivors of Rio Negro, Guatemala - a community forcibly evicted in the early 1980s to make way for the construction of the Chixoy hydroelectric dam.

The petition to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission comes at a time when hundreds of people displaced by the Chixoy Dam occupied the facility last week, calling upon the Guatemalan Government to ensure that their demands for land and other reparations are met.

Between 1980 and 1982, some 444 people resisting the construction of the dam were murdered in a series of massacres that wiped out half the population of the small rural community of Rio Negro. The massacres were the principal means used to forcibly evict the community from their homes and lands so that construction of the dam could get underway.

COHRE's legal counsel, Bret Thiele said, "the aim of the petition is to hold not only the Guatemalan Government accountable for killing people opposed to forced evictions, but to also hold the World Bank and the IDB accountable for their roles in these human rights violations."

The petition states that the two Banks, which were the principal funders of the Chixoy Dam Project, continued to finance and supervise the project despite being aware of the murder of 444 people from the Rio Negro community by the Guatemalan Government.

"By channelling US$350 million to the US-backed military regime, notorious for its appalling human rights record throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and by promoting and continuing with the project during the worst years of state terrorism and genocide, the World Bank and the IDB effectively legitimised the repression of the Guatemalan Government," added Thiele. The World Bank alone has financially supported development projects leading to the forced eviction of tens of millions of people during recent decades.

According to COHRE's petition, the Banks' disregard for the brutal massacres and forced evictions resulting from a project they were directly supervising, and their failure to protect the people of Rio Negro, clearly demonstrates their reckless disregard of the rights of the Rio Negro residents.

"Impunity for human rights violations by such entities unfortunately seems to be the rule, as States simply violate their respective human rights obligations through the formation of corporations or inter-governmental organizations that then are used as agents of those States to carry out policies and practices that violate their respective international and domestic legal obligations," Thiele added.

"Such impunity is further entrenched when attempts are made to block victims of those violations from accessing remedies such as those provided by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. With this petition, COHRE hopes to bring an end to such impunity," he said.

The survivors of the Rio Negro massacres have only received meagre compensation from the Guatemalan Government and live in extreme poverty.

[Source: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions - Media Release, 17Sep04]

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