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Chimpanzee Recognized As Legal Person

By Lauren Choplin

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), the only civil rights organization in the United States working to secure legal rights for nonhuman animals, hailed Judge María Alejandra Maurico’s Nov. 3 ruling that a captive chimpanzee named Cecilia at the Mendoza Zoo is a “non-human legal person” with “inherent rights.”

After procuring and carefully reviewing a complete English translation of the 33-page ruling issued in response to a habeas corpus lawsuit filed by the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) with the Third Court of Guarantees in Mendoza, the NhRP announced its intention to bring the ruling to the immediate attention of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, which in early 2017 will hear oral arguments in the NhRP’s appeals on behalf of captive chimpanzees Tommy and Kiko.

“We’re pleased to see habeas corpus lawsuits being filed on behalf of nonhuman animals with increasing frequency in South America as we’ve been doing in the United States since 2013,” said NhRP President Steven M. Wise. “That the Court granted AFADA’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, declared her a non-human legal person as opposed to a ‘thing,’ and ordered her transferred to a sanctuary within six months is another step in a worldwide struggle to bring legal rights to appropriate nonhuman animals.”

Judge Mauricio’s ruling, among other key aspects, identifies Cecilia’s case as a matter of the protection of the “collective good and value … embodied in the wellbeing of Cecilia” pursuant to Argentina’s General Environmental Law. “Cecilia’s present situation moves us,” Judge Mauricio writes. “If we take care of her wellbeing, it is not Cecilia who will owe us; it is us who will have to thank her for giving us the opportunity to grow as a group and to feel a little more human.”

Wise considers Judge Mauricio’s thorough examination of the bases for recognition of great apes’ personhood and rights in Argentina “a continuation of an ongoing paradigm shift in how other species are viewed and treated under the law.”

“We congratulate AFADA on this victory and are pleased Cecilia will soon be able to live more autonomously among others of her kind in a suitable habitat,” Wise said.

For the ruling in its original Spanish, visit this page. For the ruling in English as translated by attorney Ana María Hernández, visit this page.

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