Peru’s Environmental Defenders Urge End to Violence, Call for Protection

A group of human rights and environmental defenders from various regions of Peru demonstrated in Lima on Wednesday to demand a halt to the violence and to demand that the state guarantee them protection.

“What we are doing here is making our demands known so that the state takes timely action (…), that it takes the corresponding actions before there are more killings or assassinations”, Agustina Mayán, representative of the Organisation for the Development of the Border Communities of Cenepa (Odecofroc), told Efe.

Along with this representative from the northern region of Amazonas, some two dozen human rights and environmental defenders stood outside the Ministry of Justice, in the Lima district of Miraflores, to denounce the threats and intimidation they suffer on a daily basis.

They also demanded the implementation of the new protocol that the Peruvian government approved last April, which aims to improve the protection of human rights defenders.

Among their main demands is also the urgency for Congress to ratify the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty that obliges signatory countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to guarantee the protection of environmental leaders and defenders.

To the Judiciary, the defenders called for the development of a plenary agreement of the Supreme Court of Justice to prevent and avoid the criminalisation of protest.

“It seems that justice is for those who threaten life and pollute and not for defenders, who end up being denounced, persecuted and prosecuted”, said Mayán.

The woman explained that in the Amazonian district of Cenepa, on the border with Ecuador, the conflicts are fuelled by the presence of illegal and alluvial mining.

“For denouncing these illegal miners, I ended up in prison and we are a step away from being murdered”, warned the Odecofroc spokesperson, who was accused by the justice system of having kidnapped three men who “were detained by the population because they had entered illegally and were carrying out mining work”.

Unprotected, leaders are often threatened if they denounce the authorities and, when they dare to do so, they are defenceless and immersed in complicated legal processes that can last many years.

Peru ranks ninth on the list of countries with the highest number of murders of environmental defenders in the world, according to a recent Global Witness report.

This comes after a total of six murders of environmental leaders in the past year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to this situation, the Peruvian government last year approved a mechanism to improve and accelerate the protection of human rights and environmental defenders.

[Agencia EFE]