The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a wind farm project in Oaxaca must be halted because the process to approve it violated the rights of the local indigenous community.
Judges from Mexico’s highest court unanimously decided to grant an amparo, or injunction, to members of the Zapotec community in Juchitán on the grounds that they hadn’t been consulted or given their permission or authorization for the project to go ahead on their land.
A district court in Salinas Cruz, Oaxaca previously ruled against a similar injunction request in June 2016.
The plaintiffs also argued that the project being built by Energía Eólica del Sur could cause significant environmental damage that would directly affect the local community.
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held in November at the site of the project, where state Governor Alejandro Murat celebrated its having earned the approval of the local communities in accordance with international treaty obligations.
The company plans to build 132 wind turbines on 5,300 hectares of land in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, one of Mexico’s windiest. The Japanese firm Mitsubishi is an investor in the US $1.2-billion farm, which was 22% complete in November.
The case against the project was supported by a document signed by 17 national and international human rights organizations that was presented to the court in September.
The document also argued that the law — and the indigenous community’s rights — had been violated because they were not consulted prior to government authorization of the project or the commencement of work.
In addition, it said that implementing a consultation process after the project had already been approved was not compatible with convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, which stipulates rights as they apply to indigenous and tribal peoples.
“It concerns us that the process of consultation with indigenous peoples and communities in Mexico is treated by authorities as a mere procedure that puts substantive issues linked to land rights and the free determination of the people to the side,” the document said.
“A true consultation process should seek sincere and meaningful dialogue with the communities,” it continued.
In handing down its decision, the court recognized their grievances and cited the indigenous community’s “right to prior, free and informed consultation” as justification for its ruling.