On April 30, 2020, thirty-two groups in Ecuador filed an action in provincial court seeking protection of human rights and precautionary measures against the national oil company of Ecuador, a major pipeline company, and the Ecuadorian government, due to the rupture of oil pipelines near the San Rafael Waterfall on April 7, 2020 – spilling approximately fifteen thousand barrels of crude oil and gasoline base – which affected the Coca and Napo rivers, and caused irreparable damage to one hundred and nine ancestral communities. The plaintiffs are part of and/or are representatives of indigenous communities and argue that their constitutional rights to life, water, food, health, territory in relation to the identity of indigenous peoples, to the environment, to nature, and to information, have been violated” (3) and that the impact of the oil spill violates the rights recognized to Nature by Article 71 of the Ecuadorian constitution (Provincial court ruling, 19).
On October 10, 2020 the provincial court of Orellana denied the action “because there was no evidence of a violation of rights”, and on March 23, 2021 rejected the subsequent appeal.
On April 29, 2021, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador accepted the case and will analyze the alleged impact on the rights to a healthy environment and health of ancestral communities, and the rights of nature.
The action was filed against the national oil company of Ecuador (Petroecuador); the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline Company (OCP); the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources; the Ministry of the Environment; the Ministry of Public Health; and the Attorney General’s Office.