India's Dongria Kondh tribe have overwhelmingly rejected plans by British mining giant Vedanta Resources for an open-pit bauxite mine on their sacred lands, in an unprecedented triumph for indigenous rights on the subcontinent. Twelve Dongria villages unanimously voted against Vedanta's mine during consultations ordered by India's Supreme Court in April. The court based its ruling on the Dongria people's religious, cultural and social rights. The mine would destroy the forests and disrupt the rivers in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa state, which are central to the livelihood and identity of the 8,000-strong tribe. Advocates charged the mine would spell the end of the Dongria as a self-sufficient people.
An activist tribunal dubbed the Ethical Trial against Plunder (Juicio Ético contra el Despojo) was held in Bogotá over the weekend to air testimony against the practices of multinational gold firm Anglo Ahshanti (AGA) and oil giant Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE). More than 500 representatives from across Colombia convened in the capital's central folk-crafts market, the Plaza de los Artesanos, to present evidence that the multinational corporations were involved in the murder of union leaders, displacement of indigenous communities, and grave environmental damage. The objective was to gather enough evidence to be able to put forward an real legal case.
Up to 20,000 refugees have crossed from Syria into Iraqi Kurdistan in the past three days, apparently fleeing fighting between Kurdish militias of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Salafist factions led by the Nusra Front. The PYD reportedly drove Salafist forces from the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain, taking control of a border post on the Turkish frontier. But the Salafists are apparenlty launching bloody reprisals, with refugees who have fled to Iraq reporting massacres in Kurdish villages.
Indigenous leaders in Peru's northern Amazonian region of Loreto on Aug. 10 protested that a leak from Pluspetrol's oil operations at the exploitation bloc known as Lot 8X is causing contamination within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, with which the bloc overlaps. Alfonso López Tejada, president of the Cocoma Association for the Development and Conservation of San Pablo de Tipishca (ACODECOSPAT) said that the reserve is "every day more unprotected against oil spills." (RPP, Aug. 11; El Comercio, Lima, Aug. 10)
Sudan made minor headlines by expelling 20 staff members of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with UNHCR accusing the government of "compromising the ability of the refugee agency to effectively undertake its work in Darfur." (Radio Dabanga, Aug. 6) The spat comes amid a re-inflammation of the Darfur conflict. The UN Security Council passed a resolution last week calling for an end to heightening violence in Darfur, and greater action by "peacekeepers" to protect civilians. The council extended the mandate of the joint UN-African Union force in Darfur until next August. (AP, July 30) Days later, Misseriya tribal leader Ahmed Khiri boatsed to AFP that his forces had killed 100 members of the rival Salamat tribe in a battle near Garsila, with 28 lost on his own side. (AFP, July 30) Estimates of the number of newly displaced in Darfur so far this year is estimated at over 240,000. (Radio Dabanga via AllAfrica, Aug. 2)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on July 22 that the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23, see BBC backgrounder) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is receiving assistance from Rwanda despite continued human rights abuses by the M23, including rape, executions and forced recruitment of young boys. HRW based its report on interviews with former M23 fighters who have abandoned the movement. According to the report, Rwanda is permitting the M23 rebels to recruit from within Rwanda and is giving material support to the rebels, including food, uniforms, ammunition and other supplies. While a panel of UN experts reported in June that Rwanda's support for the M23 is declining, HRW asserted that the support remains significant and called upon the UN and the US to urge Rwanda to halt support to the M23.
At least 40 were killed in clashes that raged overnight after militants launched coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons July 22. The attacks on the prisons at Taji and Abu Ghraib, both outside Baghdad, included car bombs and mortar strikes on the front gates before gunmen assaulted the guards. At least 500 prisoners escaped. (AFP, July 22) A coordinated wave of seven car bombs tore through bustling streets July 20 in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, leaving some 45 dead. (AP, July 20) On July 19, a bomb blast at a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers in the town of Wajihiya, Diyala, killed 20 people. Violence has killed at least 200 in Iraq since the start of Ramadan. (Rudaw, July 22; RFE/RL, July 19)
Survival International says it has received reports that Brazil's military has launched a major ground operation against illegal logging around the land of the Awá, said the be the "Earth's most threatened tribe." Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and Environment Ministry special agents have flooded the area, backed up with tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred other vehicles, to halt the illegal deforestation which has already destroyed more than 30% of one of the Awá's traditional territories (in Maranhão state). Since the operation reportedly started at the end of June 2013, at least eight saw mills have been closed and other machinery has been confiscated and destroyed. The operation comes at a critical time for the Awá, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in the Brazilian Amazon, who are at risk of extinction if the destruction of their forest is not stopped as a matter of urgency.