Indigenous justice systems and harmonisation with the ordinary justice system: report

2 August 2019
Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples
To the HRC at its 42nd session



Indigenous peoples’ own systems of justice: a subject which has recurrently been addressed by the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.

The main concerns raised by indigenous peoples are the lack of effective recognition of, and support for, their systems of justice by local, regional and national level authorities; ongoing discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes against indigenous peoples and their systems of justice; and the lack of effective methods of coordination between their justice systems and the State ordinary justice authorities. The observance of international human rights standards by both the ordinary and indigenous justice systems, particularly regarding the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities is also worthy of attention.

The Special Rapporteur therefore decided to devote particular attention to this issue through the elaboration of a thematic report which was presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2019. 


The report addresses these issues through an examination of international standards regarding indigenous customary justice, access to justice and the right to a fair trial. It also examines lessons learned from domestic legislation and judicial decisions addressing indigenous customary justice, as well as observations and recommendations made by international human rights bodies.

In order to develop the report based on an assessment of progress made in this area, the Special Rapporteur requested responses to her questionnaire by 10 May 2019.

Inputs received


  1. Australia
  2. Bolivia
  3. Canada
  4. Colombia
  5. Denmark
  6. Ecuador
  7. Finland
  8. Guatemala
  9. Mexico
  10. Norway
  11. Ukraine
Indigenous organisations
  1. Association des Abogadas Indigenas Chomija de Guatemala
  2. Submission from West papua
  3. Submission received from the Maya, Garifuna and Xinka in Guatemala
  1. Maat for Peace
  2. CIMI
  3. Humanismo y Legalidad
  5. International Commission of Jurists
  1. Agnieszka Szpak, Nicolaus Copernicus University Poland
  2. Danish Institute for Human Rights
  3. Lieselotte Viaene