Three representatives of the United Nations wrote to the U.S. federal government expressing their "serious concerns" about Guam's ongoing military buildup "in the absence of adequate consultation with the Chamorro people and the associated threats to indigenous lands, resources, environmental and cultural rights."
The officials sent the communication, made public Wednesday, in their capacity as special rapporteurs of the U.N., a designation given to individuals who work on specific issues of a country or specific mandate. The three rapporteurs cover the areas of: human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; the rights of indigenous peoples; and the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.
Attorney Julian Aguon of Blue Ocean Law provided information the U.N. officials based their letter on. In a statement, Aguon said: "We could not be more pleased with this outcome. It is deeply validating for three Human Rights Council mandate holders to confirm that the way the U.S. military has rolled out this military buildup is wrong. It says to the world, not just to the U.S., that might does not make right, and that the Chamorro people have the right to self-determination, free, prior and informed consent, a clean environment, culture, health and life – rights that should be respected."
The officials wrote that the information received from the law firm and the Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization is "sufficiently reliable to indicate a matter warranting immediate attention."
"Notably, the Chamorro people have not provided their free, prior and informed consent in connection with the ongoing expansion of U.S. military bases and its accompanying increase in personnel on Guam. The military escalation risks increased contamination to the drinking water, loss of wildlife and biodiversity, irreversible damage of their traditional lands, territories, and resources; loss of traditional livelihoods, cultural sites and heritage and threatens the physical and cultural survival of the Chamorro," the rapporteurs wrote.
Clarification is being sought from the federal government on a host of matters, including:
• Allegations regarding military buildup on Guam; destruction of indigenous CHamoru sacred sites and cultural resources; and associated environmental impacts.
• Measures that have been taken to ensure that the CHamoru people can engage in cultural and religious practices and protect cultural heritage in view of the growing militarization.
• Steps taken to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of indigenous peoples to life, health, food and safe drinking water, and the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment on Guam.
• Planned measures to ensure the participation of the CHamoru people in all decision-making affecting them, to obtain their free prior informed consent to projects that affect their lands and territories, and to support and promote the CHamoru peoples' right to self-determination.
• Information on progress achieved in the cleanup of Superfund sites.
• Measures taken by the federal government to initiate a dialogue with the CHamoru people for the resolution of past human rights violations and to prevent further violations.
Group: A historic step
Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, a group that has been protesting the increased militarization of the Mariana Islands, including the construction of a live-fire training range complex above the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, Ritidian Unit, noted the importance of the letter.
"For the first time in our history, the United Nations is communicating to the United States government on behalf of the CHamoru people citing numerous violations against our human and indigenous rights – the desecration of our sacred places and ancestors, the destruction of our environment, our history of contamination, adverse effects on Guam's main source of clean drinking water, risks to the health and safety of our people and future generations of Guåhan, and resulting barriers to our right to self-determination," members said in a statement.