The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has rejected a petition from the Inuit which alleges that the emission of greenhouse gasses poses a serious human rights threat to them.
The idea for a petition to the IACHR was first announced by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in December 2004 at a major global climate change conference. The group argued that climate change is being felt most severely in the Arctic, and it has the potential to produce devastating economic, social, and cultural problems for their communities. The Inuit stated that the primary target of their action was the United States, which is the most serious contributor of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.
At another major global climate change conference in Montreal last December, the ICC announced that it was ready to submit its petition. The unveiling of the petition was one of the major media events of that conference. The intention was that if the IACHR would grant their petition and find that global climate change was, in fact, violating the rights and lives of the Inuit, they could then pursue legal remedies in American or international courts of law. The presentations to the media last December were successful, savvy attempts to focus public attention on the fact that climate change is very much a human issue as well as an environmental one.
The IACHR just rejected the ICC’s petition, according to a news story on Friday the 15th. The Commission told the ICC in a terse letter that is available on the Web that it “will not be able to process your petition at present because the information it contains does not satisfy the requirements set forth [in the Commission’s rules.] Specifically, the information provided does not enable us to determine whether the alleged facts would tend to characterize a violation of rights protected by the American Declaration.”
According to the story in Nunatsiaq News, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who was Chair of the ICC when the petition was submitted, is not discouraged. She intends to continue her campaign to bring the Inuit perspective on global climate change to the world’s news media. The 175 page petition said climate changes threaten the traditional land rights, lives, health, personal property, and livelihoods of the Inuit.
Since the U.S. has not supported global climate change treaties, the petition argued that the U.S. should be condemned for violating the rights of the Inuit. The petition asked for “relief from human rights violations resulting from the impacts of global warming and climate caused by acts and omissions of the U.S.”
Watt-Cloutier responded to the IACHR letter by asking the Commission for further information about why it had made its determination to not proceed, and she invited Commission members to visit the Arctic and hold a hearing to gather direct documentation about issues “which are seriously affecting Inuit survival.” She is also going to be interviewed for Glamour magazine and is arranging a tour of five American states to promote her cause.