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Update: Inuit Defend Their Right To Be Cold
Emily Gertz, 9 Dec 05

The Inuit Circumpolar Council -- a group representing the Inuit of Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Greenland -- announced that it is suing the U.S. to defend the Inuit right to exist -- followng through on the intention it announced last year.

In the petition submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the ICC charges that U.S. inaction on curbing greenhouse gas emissions is a major cause of Arctic warming -- which is destroying the environment that has both formed and nutured the traditional Inuit way of life.

This petition has the potential to transform the politics of global warming. As I wrote while on assignment with this story this earlier in the year,

While human rights have usually been considered in local contexts -- violations of a person's rights by fellow citizens or one's own government -- the Inuit petition to the Inter-American Commission makes connections in a global context, arguing that the actions of one nation can violate the rights of people beyond its own borders...

The petition is unique, says Wagner [Martin Wagner of Earthjustice, one of two environmental lawyers who have assisted the ICC with the petition] "in that it's making this connection between climate change and human rights. It's unique because it's raising an environmental claim against the United States. It's asking the commission to recognize the international obligation of the United States for its failure to take action to protect the environment, and to recognize the implications of U.S. inaction for people both [inside and outside] the United States."

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I wonder if there are similar lawsuits being started by fishing communities in the developing world, or hotel groups along threatened beachfront. Or Sámi on the Kola Peninsula. All these groups are threatened in some way be global warming. Perhaps they could make common cause with the Inuit.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 10 Dec 05

Just as with any legal proceeding, there needs to be a system in place that all parties participate in, before you can bring a suit -- or in this case, strictly speaking, file a petition.

In a nutshell, U.S. and Canada are both member nations of the the Organization of American States (OAS). The Inuit Circumpolar Council represents Canadian Inuit, and gets standing via Canada before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body of the OAS, to file a petition against the United States.

By the way, there is also an Inter-American Court on Human Rights. But the U.S. has not signed the American Convention on Human Rights, and so is not bound by decisions of the Court. The Court has the power to order a government to act based on its findings. The Commission doesn't have that authority, but the U.S. does participate in Commission hearings.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 12 Dec 05

Ya but canada isnt likely to push the issue what with the oil sands thingy;/

Posted by: wintermane on 12 Dec 05

What a "cute" gimmick... What some people will do to stick it to American society...Or to enjoy watching others do it...

Posted by: Jay on 12 Dec 05

Before you judge this human rights petition as a "gimick" go read the document. It is truly heart-wrenching what we are doing to the Inuit people.

Download the entire petition HERE. (large file)

Posted by: composter on 14 Dec 05



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