Understanding the militarization of Indigenous territory as a human rights violation

Published by Brent Patterson on

What is the relationship between militarization of territory and human rights?

Years ago, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was told that the militarization of Indigenous territories was the root cause of many forms of human rights violations. The recommendation made at that time was that the Permanent Forum should form a Working Group on Militarization.

And in this letter to the editor in The Guardian, PBI-UK noted: “PBI has provided protection to at-risk human rights defenders in the country since 2000, an experience that has shown us that in the federal states where a security strategy based on militarization has been implemented, attacks against activists have increased significantly.”

Furthermore, PBI-Honduras accompanied COPINH coordinator Bertha Zuniga Caceres says in the film La Lucha Sigue: “We have an army in a country where there’s no armed conflict with any other country. The only conflict in Honduras is a conflict of interests of the richest people with the most historically impoverished people.”

Militarization can also refer to the use of military equipment and tactics by the police.

The Guardian gives this example: “Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that ‘lethal overwatch is req’d’ – a term for deploying an officer who is prepared to use lethal force. …On 7 January 2019, RCMP officers – dressed in military-green fatigues and armed with assault rifles – descended on the checkpoint, dismantling the gate and arresting 14 people.”

Despite this UN resolution calling for “[the RCMP] and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands”, the CBC has reported the RCMP presence on Wet’suwet’en territory between January 2019 (when the raid described above happened) and March 2020 cost $13.1 million.

In essence, it can be argued that the RCMP has militarized the unceded Indigenous Wet’suwet’en territory as illustrated in this video from the Water Protector Legal Collective, this video of an interaction between the RCMP and two journalists, and in this video of the RCMP’s interaction with documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano.

Earlier this month, University of British Columbia professor Sheryl Lightfoot was appointed to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a seven-person body that provides the UN Human Rights Council with expertise and advice on the rights of Indigenous peoples. This would be an important issue for that body to consider.

Less than a year before she was killed, Berta Caceres commented: “Our Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.”

That’s a call to all of us to understand the issue of militarization and militarism in its various forms and to contribute to building a more peaceful, just world.

For more on this, you may also be interested in the World Beyond War Canada and Science for Peace organized webinar Militarism & Climate Change: Disaster in Progress that is happening on Thursday April 29 at 7:00 pm ET.

Screenshot from the Mutual Aid Media film La Lucha Sigue.

Categories: News Updates


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *