Ombudsman - Oil threatens uncontacted tribes

April 19, 2007

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Peru's Ombudsman, the top human rights body in the country, has warned the Peruvian government that uncontacted Indian tribes are threatened with extinction by oil exploration.

The uncontacted tribes, numbering an estimated 15 in total, live in the most remote parts of the Peruvian Amazon. Their territories are at serious risk of invasion since the Peruvian government has opened up 70% of the Amazon to oil exploration.

'The government must not allow any organisation to explore for or exploit hydrocarbons if it endangers tribal peoples living in isolation, due to their particular vulnerability,' states the Ombudsman's report. 'The carrying out of natural resource extraction in reserves where these people live is a fundamental issue that the government must rigorously and conscientiously address, given that the rights to life, the health and the existence and integrity of these peoples is at stake.'

The Indians are extremely vulnerable to any form of contact because they do not have immunity to outsiders' diseases. After being contacted for the first time in the 1980s following oil exploration on their land, more than 50% of the Nahua tribe in the south-east of Peru died.

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru