MAPDER, the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers, will represent the communities.

Dam-Affected Communities in Mexico Take Government to Peoples’ Tribunal

Posted on November 2, 2012 by Priscila Néri

On November 5-6, many of our local partners fighting forced evictions in Mexico will travel to the small town of Temacapulín, in Jalisco state, to tell their stories to an international panel of judges representing the Mexico chapter of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT).

MAPDER, the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers, will represent the communities.

MAPDER, the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers, will represent the communities.

Established in 1979, the PPT is an international non-governmental ethical tribunal. It’s a kind of “Peoples’ Court” set up to hear and judge human rights violations where traditional courts have failed to do so.  Though judgments are not legally binding, they raise international visibility for these abuses while also helping to echo and legitimize affected communities’ claims and advocacy.

The PPT will be in Mexico through 2014. Through that time, civil society will be presenting its claims under seven thematic areas, including violence against women, environmental devastation and its impact on human rights, and the violence Mexicans have faced during the so-called “war on drugs” over the past several years.

Leading up to the session on environmental devastation, our partners have organized a special sub-hearing dedicated solely to the issue of forced evictions. This session will consider human rights violations that have occurred before, during, and after the construction of large dams throughout the country over the last 40 years. If you follow this blog, you’re familiar with many of these abuses, which range from fraudulent consultations, to intimidation and threats to communities before the construction of dams, to inadequate (or nonexistent) resettlement and compensation after construction.

In case after case, thousands of people – many indigenous, campesino, and small-scale farmers – have lost not just their lands but their sources of livelihood and subsistence because of a large dam (and here’s more on how these communities have used video to resist forced evictions tied to dams).

At next week’s sub-hearing on dams, eight communities will be represented by MAPDER, the Mexican Movement of People Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers. MAPDER will present the case to a group of internationally renowned PPT judges, which will include former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly, Maude Barlow, UNAM researcher and recipient of Mexico’s 2003 National Medal of Science, Patricia Ávila, and others.

Activists at a WITNESS training select testimonies during a paper edit of the new video.

Activists at a WITNESS training select testimonies during a paper edit of the new video.

The communities will begin their presentations with a new video called How to Destroy a 140-Year-Old Community in 15 Days (¿Como terminar una comunidad de 140 años en 15 días?). The video, produced with help from WITNESS and HIC-AL, will be launched publicly during next week’s tribunal. Check this blog next week to see the completed video.

We began working on the video months ago, when representatives from MAPDER’s network came together in a WITNESS training to craft the video’s goal, audience, and message according to their broader advocacy strategy around the PPT.  We then watched, logged, and selected testimonies from 66 videos produced by affected communities, activists, and NGOs on forced evictions and dams in Mexico.

Participants spent hours combing through footage, classifying testimonies according to the types of violations that needed to be featured. They made collective decisions about how to best deliver the personal and human story about losing your home to something explained as “development.”  Two months of intense editing later and after many rough cut reviews, the video was finally finalized. A few days ago, they sent it to the printers in Mexico for its grand début at the PPT next week.

After the hearing, judges will hold a press conference in Mexico City on November 9th to announce the ruling and answer questions on the decisions presented.  Our partners will use this ruling to continue pressuring Mexican authorities at the local, state, and federal levels to uphold human rights in dam construction projects and to properly compensate communities that have long lost their homes and livelihoods without ever having received reparations.

To follow the PPT’s sub-hearing on dams:

For more information on the sub-hearing itself, see the official program and the FAQ.

 

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