Indigenous Rights before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: A Call for a Pro Individual Interpretation


by Valerio de Oliveira Mazzuoli and Dilton Ribeiro

In its traditional conception, international law regulates relations between sovereign states. This definition is challenged by current developments of international law, especially in the area of human rights. The human person is arguably a bearer of rights and duties under international law. However, recognizing this individual legal personality is not enough. International bodies and treaties need to acknowledge that individuals are subjects of international law within a pluralistic world. In other words, the law of nations must crystalize the idea that individuals are, with all their cultural differences, subjects of international law. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognizes this view through its pro homine principle, which informs that human rights instruments must seek the best possible protection for the human person. In this interpretative framework, the Inter-American Court crystalized a body of norms protecting indigenous rights and their cultural and historical backgrounds within the general protection system of the American Convention. The extensive interpretation of rights articulates a new view on the individual legal personality. Accordingly, this article seeks to understand this approach based on key decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on indigenous cases.

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