Cynthia Morel discusses a landmark ruling on indigenous land rights

In the early 1970s, the Endorois community was forcibly displaced, without adequate consultation or compensation, for the creation of a wildlife reserve. In a landmark decision released in February 2010, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) delivered its first ruling recognising an indigenous community's rights to its ancestral land and natural resources. It is also the first case globally to adjudicate on the right to development.

In April 2010, Minority Rights Group International and A4ID convened a panel to provide an overview of the arguments presented before the African Commission, its findings and their implications. The panel consisted of the three lawyers serving as co-counsel in the case - Clive Baldwin, Cynthia Morel and Korir Singoei, as well as Margot Salomon, an international expert on the right to development. The panel was moderated by Lucy Claridge, MRG's Head of Law.

In this 12-minute video, Cynthia Morel gives a thorough chronology of the case, highlighting key points in its 40-year development.

Extract from the transcript:

On 2nd February 2010, the African Union released the Endorois judgement, which was the first time that the right to indigenous peoples and the right to property/recognition of the right to property was ever established before the body.

This was the culmination of forty years of epic struggle by the Endorois community; basically since the end of the early 70s when they had been evicted for the purposes of the creation of a game reserve. 

When the Government decided to displace the Endorois for the purposes of the game reserve they did so as a fait accomplie, so there was no consulation or compensation of anything of that nature. So within some years, especially culminating in the 1990s, the community began to organise, and they launched some domestic proceedings before the Kenyan High Court; but unfortunately that application failed on the grounds that the Bill of Rights in Kenya at the time only provided for the individual right to property.

To hear more, watch the full video by clicking on the video display above.

About Cynthia Morel

Cynthia Morel established MRG's strategic litigation programme in 2002. In her capacity as the founding legal cases officer, and later as senior legal advisor, she spearheaded the development of landmark cases such as Finci v Bosnia and Herzegovina before the European Grand Chamber, and the Endorois case before the African Commission. She also produced third party interventions and legal advice in support of cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, UN Treaty Bodies and UK Courts. In November 2008, she joined the Open Society Justice Initiative's Equality and Citizenship programme, where she litigates against ethnic profiling and statelessness. 

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Date: 01/09/2010




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