A United Nations body has criticized the U.S. government for not properly consulting with Indian tribes on a cross-country pipeline project, saying not involving tribes in the decision violates their human rights.
Members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues issued a statement Wednesday calling on the Obama administration to “establish and implement… a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses.”
The UN is intervening on behalf of the Sioux tribe in its lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the approval of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which will bring oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
“The pipeline would adversely affect not only the security and access to drinking water of the Sioux and millions of people living downstream of the Missouri River, but it would also destroy archaeological, historical and sacred sites of the Sioux,” the UN body said in its statement.
Environmentalists have teamed up with the Sioux and other tribes to oppose Dakota Access, which they say could damage sacred sites and was approved without proper consultation with tribes. Eco-lawyers with the group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the tribe.
Some 30 protesters have been arrested picketing the pipeline project, and Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company, the company building the pipeline, unsuccessfully tried to get a restraining order against protesters.
To be fair, Dakota Access has already been subject to instances of vandalism at three construction sites where fire damaged equipment.
Activists condemned the violence, and no one has been arrested for the vandalism.
Pipeline opponents took their protest to Washington, D.C., in late August where they protested outside the White House. Activists are trying to reboot the movement that helped bring down the Keystone XL pipeline.
No UN body, however, got involved with Keystone XL, and the project was eventually vetoed by the Obama administration because it would make the U.S. look bad in terms of global warming.
Now, activists are seizing on Indian tribal resistance in addition to their complaints about potential oil spills and global warming.
“There has been a lack of good faith consultation with the indigenous people who will more than likely be impacted,” Dalee Dorough, an Inuit member of the UN body, told the Associated Press.
“The U.N. declaration is fundamental because President Obama pronounced support for it and that they haven’t been consulted consistent with the rights of that declaration is highly problematic,” he said referring the UN’s declaration on indigenous rights.
A federal judge will rule on the Sioux’s lawsuit against the Corps in September. Until then, activists plan on continuing to slow down construction by blocking the project’s route and staging more protests.
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