Washington, D.C. March 17th, 2015.-The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)—in partnership with 10 civil society organizations—denounced yesterday the multiple human rights violations caused by the construction of the Interoceanic Canal in Nicaragua during a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Construction for the canal will cover a strip of land an estimated 278 kilometers long with a catchment area of 10 kilometers on either side, resulting in a canal three times bigger than the one in Panama. However, the project is expected to cause an unprecedented quantity of sediment removal, an issue which has sparked concern among environmental organizations who fear the intended canal route will wreak havoc on seven environmentally protected areas, destroy nearly 193,000 hectares of forested land, and threaten to contaminate Lake Cocibolca, Central America´s most important freshwater reservoir.
“The land concession for the Interoceanic canal includes over 10 mega-projects and was assigned to one service provider who will potentially own the rights to its development and operation for over 116 years,” said Luis Carlos Buob, lawyer for CEJIL, “Despite the magnitude of this project, the law drafted to legitimate the canal´s construction was approved in only eight days through a rushed and irregular process that took place through general misinformation, and presented a lack of analysis, lack of public consultation and clearly violated of national sovereignty."
Additionally, petitioners claimed, the State did not consult indigenous and afro-descendant groups—who make up 52% of the population living along the canal route and will be among the most affected by land expropriation, territory and self-determination rights violations. In total, it is estimated that 119,000 people could be displaced.
The discussion ended with details on the repression, police aggression and illegal detentions faced by the project´s detractors, especially those who participated in marches held in El Tule and Rivas in December 2014 where demonstrations where violently broken up by local police.
For the petitioners, the situations described has generated social, cultural, civil, and political rights violations. The hearing closed with a request to the Commission to conduct an official visit to Nicaragua to provide a detailed report on the scope and consequences of the project´s implementation in order to promote a broad and transparent debate and the implementation of mechanisms for consultation with the general population.