From Nicole Friederichs:
Suffolk Law’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic secures victory for indigenous communities in Guatemala.
On Friday, December 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of indigenous communities in Guatemala in the Case of Maya Kaqchikel indigenous community of Sumpango, et al. v. Guatemala. Suffolk University Law School’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic has been the legal representative of the four named indigenous communities in this case since 2012.
The Court ruled that the State of Guatemala violated the indigenous communities’ rights to freedom of expression and thought, culture, and non-discrimination by promoting a regulatory framework which prevented indigenous peoples from accessing radio frequencies to develop and operate community radio stations. The Inter-American Court ordered Guatemala to (1) adopt legislative and regulatory measures to ensure for the recognition of community radio, (2) reserve indigenous community radio as part of the radio spectrum and (3) to halt all government raids of existing indigenous community radio. This court victory culminates decades of advocacy by indigenous communities in Guatemala and indigenous organizations such as Cultural Survival, one of the petitioners in the case.
What is of particular significance is the Court’s recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to operate their own media, and the relationship of this right to freedom of expression, culture, self-determination, and non-discrimination. This is the first known international case to recognize this right and its recognition by the Inter-American Court should influence how other judicial and human rights bodies interpret and promote this right to media under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The legal team was led by Nicole Friederichs, Director of Suffolk’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic, along with Suffolk Law Adjunct Prof. Amy Van Zyl-Chavarro. Suffolk Law Prof. Lorie Graham submitted expert testimony, on which the Court relied in its analysis of indigenous peoples’ right to media. Nicole Friederichs noted, “This decision is a victory not only for indigenous communities in Guatemala, but also for indigenous peoples throughout this hemisphere in protecting their rights to freedom of expression and culture and promoting pluralism in media.”