US Human Rights Network Blog
Mauna Kea: Update from the frontlinesAug 27, 2019
USHRN Executive Director Dr. Rosalee Gonzalez and Deputy Director Salimah Hankins, Esq. arrived to Hilo, Hawai’i this weekend to visit the Protectors at Mauna Kea sacred mountain and bear witness to their peaceful protest.
On Monday, Rosalee participated in an action organized by the Indigenous leaders at Mauna Kea, where she witnessed 6 vehicles of Indigenous Peoples, and 1 group of elders walking on foot, each be denied access to Mauna Kea access road, the only road that leads to Mauna Kea mountain, the most sacred place of worship to Kanaka Maoli. The groups were told that they were denied access due to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Land and Resources, Hilo County, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; they were told that this MOU gives the Department of Land and Resources the authority to shutdown and restrict access to Mauna Kea access road.
Kanaka Maoli have a right to exercise traditional customary practices, including for spiritual and religious purposes. The US Human Rights Network strongly denounces the denial of access to Mauna Kea, the MOU between Hawaiian Home Lands, Hilo County, and the Department of Land and Resources.
This denial of access to a sacred site, as permitted by the apparent MOU, is a violation of the standards set by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), including articles 12 (1) and 25 regarding spiritual practices, and article 32 (2) on free, prior, and informed consent. As articulated in the UNDRIP articles 11 and 12, the United States, including the State of Hawai’i, is obligated to respect the cultural and religious customs of Indigenous Hawaiians. This MOU is also in violation of General Recommendation 23 of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which calls upon State parties to ensure that “indigenous communities can exercise their rights to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs.”
Rosalee spoke at a press conference organized by the Protectors to describe the human rights violations she witnessed on Monday. Watch the video here.
We will continue to update you and provide further information on events happening on the ground.
Thank you for your continued support and solidarity,
US Human Rights Network Coordinating Center
Statement delivered by Dr. Rosalee Gonzalez on behalf of the US Human Rights Network, August 26, 2019, Mauna Kea access road:
My name is Rosalee Gonzalez and I am speaking as Executive Director for the US Human Rights Network. The US Human Rights Network is made up of more than 300 member and partner organizations working on multiple human rights issues across the United States.
We are here as human rights observers, working closely with our partners at the United Nations to identify and address human rights violations within the US. We are here to support Kanaka Maoli and report on the human rights violations we have observed, including what we observed this morning.
This morning, I witnessed 6 vehicles of Indigenous Peoples, and 1 group of elders walking on foot, each denied access to Mauna Kea access road, the only road that leads to Mauna Kea mountain.
We believe that human rights violations are occurring here, including violations of the standards set by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United States, including the State of Hawai’i, is obligated to respect the cultural and religious customs of Indigenous Hawaiians.
We have been in communication with the Governor and Mayor, after circulating a petition against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea sacred mountain, signed by 50 civil society organizations, academic institutions, and Indigenous groups around the world. I have requested a meeting with Governor Ige and look forward to his office’s response.
The US Human Rights Network will be supporting the Protectors in order for them to engage with the United Nations system, and we will be reaching out to UN Special Procedures, which include Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, regarding this issue. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Hawaii and demanding that their rights are respected. Thank you.
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