Indigenous Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline: Criminalization of dissent and suppression of protest

The link below is to the report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, prepared by faculty and students of the International Human Rights Advocacy Workshop at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law on behalf of the Water Protector Legal Collective.

From the introduction to the report: “Peaceful demonstrations are a catalyst for the advancement of human rights. Yet around the world governments are criminalizing dissent and suppressing public protest, often as a means to protect corporate interests. In this context, indigenous peoples increasingly find themselves as the subjects of criminal prosecution and police violence when defending the lands they rely upon for their existence and survival from resource extraction.”

“The United States takes pride in the constitutional protections of the rights to free expression and assembly, as being stronger in the US than virtually any other place in the world. This reputation may soon change. As the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“Inter-American Commission”) stated during a recent hearing on the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression in the United States: “We are concerned about what has been happening lately…. there is a regression in these pillars of democracy…. from the highest levels of power.”

As of the date of this report, 31 US states have proposed 58 anti-protest bills, 8 have passed into law and 22 have been defeated with 28 still pending in state legislatures.” (see below regarding Iowa’s new anti-protest bill.)

Conclusion and Recommendations:
“The United States has failed in its duty to prevent and protect against the use of excessive force and unlawful arrests and to investigate, punish, and provide reparations for these human rights abuses. By condoning the behavior of state law enforcement and private security in this context, the state is normalizing, encouraging, and emboldening state and non-state actors to act similarly in future situations.

We urge the Special Rapporteur to reiterate her requests to the United States to “develop and provide anti-oppression and anti-racism training to federal and state law enforcement agents, and to mandate the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the excessive use of force and militarized response to the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, including the use of non-lethal weapons.”

In addition, we ask the Rapporteur to include the following recommendations to the US in her report on the criminalization of indigenous human rights defenders:

a) Review and reconsider criminal proceedings against water protectors and direct prosecutors to seek proportionate penalties for protestors who violate the law;
b) Investigate, punish, and provide appropriate reparations for all human rights violations, including the use of excessive force and mass arrests in response to DAPL opposition; OR convene a truth commission with the indigenous representative institutions of the Oceti Šakowiŋ;
c) Adopt a regulatory framework to supervise and monitor activities of extractive industries and energy companies,85 private security firms and other non-state actors to prevent human rights violations in regard to activities that affect indigenous peoples and their lands;
d) Provide training to law enforcement and private security on best practices for managing peaceful demonstrations; the right to free expression and assembly; and indigenous peoples rights under international law;
e) Implement national measures to protect indigenous human rights defenders in compliance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards to ensure the full enjoyment of their rights to free expression and assembly;
f) Issue executive order regulating and restricting transfer of military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement;
g) Reject or amend state legislation that violates the right to free assembly; h) Ensure that state and local emergency powers are not abused in the context of social protest; and
i) Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and recommendations on indigenous peoples rights issued to the United States by the UN Treaty Bodies, Universal Periodic Review process, UN Special Procedures and the Inter-American System of Human Rights.

We further urge the Rapporteur to report on the corporate conduct and human rights accountability of the companies and investors behind the Dakota Access Pipeline and the need to sanction those responsible for human rights violations.

Unfortunately, Iowa has joined the growing list of states approving legislation to criminalize protest, SF 2235, An Act Relating to Criminal Acts on or Against Critical Infrastructure and Providing Penalties. Discussion about this can be found at the end of the following blog post about Protest.

Suppression of dissent, attacks on the press and increased militarization of domestic police forces are the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes.

This entry was posted in #NDAPL, civil disobedience, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s