Orangutan Wins Freedom In Court Case As A ‘Non-Human Person’

An Argentinean court has ruled that a captive orangutan can be released from a Buenos Aires zoo and transferred to a sanctuary. The court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” in its decision, and said it had been deprived of its freedom by being kept in the zoo.

The case came to the attention of the court, when an animal rights group filed a habeas corpus petition on Sandra’s, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan, behalf in November. A habeas corpus petition is usually filed to challenge the legalities of a person’s imprisonment, but it in an unprecedented decision, it was successfully used to challenge the orangutan’s captivity.

As BBC News reported, lawyers for Argentina’s Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights, AFADA, argued that Sandra was a person because she has sufficient cognitive abilities and that she should not be treated as an object. They also argued that the orangutan had been illegally deprived of freedom as a non-human person. A lawyer for AFADA, Paul Buompadre, said that other lawsuits could follow after the court’s decision.

“This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories.”

As Reuters reported, other similar cases have been filed in the past, but they haven’t been as successful as the suit that will potentially free Sandra. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, filed a suit in 2011 against SeaWorld for treating its five orcas as slaves, but a court in San Diego dismissed the case.

Another case was thrown out of court this month when a lawsuit seeking freedom for a privately owned chimpanzee named Tommy failed. The court ruled that the chimp was not a “person” that was entitled rights and protections of habeas corpus. As the Inquisitr reported, a lawyer who works for animal rights noted that being recognized as a “person” is a legal term that means the animal is visible to the court, but not recognized as a human.

The case for Sandra had been rejected several other times, before a court finally decided that the orangutan could have rights to freedom which could need defending. Now the zoo has 10 days to file an appeal or Sandra will be transferred to a primate sanctuary in Brazil, in which she would have substantially more freedom.

[Image by Reuters]