President Obama: Halt the Dakota Access Pipeline & Respect the Rights of Indigenous People

By Zeke Johnson, Managing Director, Individuals at Risk Program at Amnesty International USA

I’ve been on all four of Amnesty International’s human rights observer missions to Standing Rock. What I’ve seen there and on video has deeply concerned me. Non-violent Indigenous People opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline have been met with over-militarized policing and excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary military force.

People exercising their human rights to assemble, pray and speak out have been brutally arrested, shot with rubber bullets, drenched in tear gas, and sprayed with water in freezing temperatures. The situation could deteriorate this weekend after the Governor of North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have ordered people to leave the Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Under international law, the government is obligated to respect and facilitate the right to peaceful protest, not treat people as enemies on a battlefield. These abuses must be stopped, the Department of Justice must investigate and the evacuation orders must be rescinded.

But that’s not all human rights require. Under international law and human rights standards, governments are obligated to seek the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples before approval of major infrastructure projects, including pipelines, that carry a risk of harm to their human rights.

The US government has failed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the requirement to seek their free, prior and informed consent and therefore Amnesty International USA’s Board of Directors sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline.

You can email your own letter to the President in support, here.

The Army Corps of Engineers should conduct an Environmental Impact Statement, including consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the environmental and cultural impacts of the pipeline. The government must also seek their free, prior and informed consent before ever moving forward with construction regardless of the outcome of the Environmental Impact Statement.

Until then, President Obama must ensure that construction fully stops, that no drilling under the Missouri River takes place and that the rights of Indigenous People are respected, protected and fulfilled.