LAC Main Seminar Series: Being and Expert Witness at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Anthropological Approaches to Indigenous Strategies for Legal Empowerment

Conveners: David Doyle and Javier Pérez Sandoval, University of Oxford

Speaker: Laura Rival, University of Oxford


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laura rival week

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights met in Brasilia between the 22nd and 27th of August 2022 for its 150th Regular Session. The first public hearing, which took place on Tuesday 23 August 2022, was dedicated to Case No. 12.979: Tagaeri-Taromenane Indigenous Peoples vs. Ecuador. It is the first time in the history of the Court that a state is being judged for failing in its duty to protect the Human Rights of indigenous peoples in ‘voluntary isolation.’ The judgement will create significant jurisprudence for the legal protection and territorial rights of the many groups in ‘voluntary isolation’ that exist in the Amazon region and in other remote areas around the world.

My talk is not directly on the legal case per se, but, rather, on the process of preparing the Expert Witness statement, both as part of the Petitioners’ legal team, and in terms of the anthropological knowledge I brought to bear on the case. The talk elaborates on three aspects: (i) the construction of facts involved in the process of ‘expert witnessing’; (ii) diverging approaches to the human rights of indigenous people in ‘voluntary isolation,’ including individual rights, such as those of the young Conta, who must live under constraining ‘special measures’ until reaching the age of 21; and (iii) the reframing of right to ‘isolation’ from an anthropologically informed perspective.