Nation faces rights complaint over creating parks, reserves

Talamancan Costa Ricans are going to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to fight what they consider to be a takeover of their land by the central government. The one-hour session is scheduled for Oct. 28.

The primary litigant is the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Manzanillo, but other similar local groups also are involved.

The dispute revolves around how Costa Rica declared certain areas to be protected zones. The association said it has battled the issue for decades even through the Sala IV constitutional court without satisfaction.

The principal complaint is that Costa Rica took over control of the traditional lands without compensation, although it appears the litigants prefer to retake control rather than get money.

Now 88 percent of the Cantón de Talamanca is in some kind of protected zone. These include The Reserva Indigena Bribri de Talamanca, the Reserva Indigena Cabecar de Talamanca, the Reserva Indigena Telire, the Reserva Indigena Tayni, the Reserva Indigena Kekoldi, the Parque Binacional la Amistad, the Parque Nacional Cahuita, the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Gandoca- Manzanillo and the Reserva Biológica Hitoy-Cerere.

Through decrees, resolutions and arbitrary interpretations without consulting or compensating the inhabitants, the state has assumed power over the lands, the association said in its filing with the commission. It said these lands were ancestral and traditional.

The association said that the actions of the central government were affecting their property rights and their rights to use resources. Among other things, logging is not permitted in such zones.

The petition, signed by Dennis Clark Bell, president of the association, asks that the commission intervene and compel the state to rescind the rulings that created the protected zones. The request goes directly to the heart of the country’s claim to have protected the biodiversity.

The human rights commission is an agency of the Organization of American States and is based in Washington, D.C.

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