Press Release 89/2014
11 April 2014
Yesterday, the UN Human Rights Committee publicized its views on a complaint concerning the slaughtering of reindeer in Nellim. The Committee did not find any breach in the case.The case concerned the planned forced slaughtering of reindeer owned by the authors of the complaint in the Nellim herding group of the Ivalo Reindeer Herding Cooperative. According to the authors, the decision made by the Cooperative in 2007 was discriminatory to them. The decision did not consider the calf losses or predator damage that reduce the number of reindeer in the herding group. Implementation of the required slaughter would put an end to all reindeer herding in the herding group, thereby violating the authors’ right to enjoy their indigenous culture where reindeer have traditionally grazed in natural pastures.
The Supreme Administrative Court issued its decision on the case in 2011.For the Committee it was undisputed that the authors were members of a minority within the meaning of Article 27 (minorities’ right to enjoy their own culture) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, as such, they had the right to enjoy their own culture, in which reindeer husbandry is an essential element. The authors provided some figures on the number of their reindeer and the reduction imposed by the Cooperative for the years 2010–2011. However, no data were presented with respect to 2007 and earlier. In addition, it was unclear how the reductions imposed on the authors’ herds had been implemented prior to 2007 and in comparison to other members of the Cooperative, and how, in concrete terms, the authors had come to a situation where all their reindeer would have to be slaughtered.
The Committee considered that the information presented was insufficient for concluding that the impact of the Cooperative’s reindeer reduction methods upon the authors’ rights was such as to amount to a denial of the authors’ rights under articles 26 (equality) and 27. However, the Committee pointed out that the State party must bear in mind that though different activities in themselves may not constitute a violation of Article 27, such activities, taken together, may erode the rights of Sami people to enjoy their own culture.Four out of the 18 Committee members submitted a joint dissenting opinion.