States violate human rights of indigenous peoples massively during COVID-19, says Jose Francisco Cali Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Many international instruments of human rights state that right of Indigenous peoples enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health without discrimination, but unfortunately in reality there is big gap in recognition and indigenous peoples are living at the moment. Specially COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t discriminate anybody. But the impact is going to be different. Because It is going to effect the most vulnerable people among which are the indigenous peoples. That is what we saw at this moment. What I also saw, not COVID-19, but it is the state which has violated the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

States are taking advantages of COVID-19 and have declared the state of emergency without prior consultation with Indigenous Peoples. Also that companies are extracting all minerals, have continued their works without taking any measures to prevent the spreading of COVID-19.  Therefore, Indigenous Peoples territories are in danger of pandemic. Similarly, some states are taking advantage of COVID-19 to criminalize indigenous peoples struggles for defending their rights. Previously, in the name of imposing anti-terrorism law, while this time, states are making excuses of preventing to spread COVID-19 and have imposed law especially targeting indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders. Also that Indigenous Peoples have been deprived of accessing education. Because Indigenous peoples were affected of not having education appropriate to their culture and not in their language.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the formal education is provided through virtual means, but as majority of indigenous peoples don’t have access to internet, they have been deprived of having access to formal education either. There are several other rights of indigenous peoples which have been violated during COVID-19.  

Dev Kumar Sunuwar caught up with Francisco Cali Tzay, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples who discussed COVID-19’s impacts on Indigenous communities. Here is the exclusive interview with Cali Tzay on the occasion of the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples.