Peru’s new effort to defend defenders

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Peru has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for indigenous activists and leaders. At least 57 environmental activists were murdered there from 2002 to 2014, according to Global Witness, punctuated by the shooting deaths of four indigenous Ashaninka leaders in the rainforest of Ucayal.

Three indigenous activists have been murdered in Peru this year: Herasmo García Grau and Yenes Ríos Bonsano from Ucayali, and Estela Casanto Mauricio de Junín, according to the Coordinating Committee of Amazonian Indigenous Organizations. They are among the 19 natives killed in the region in 2021.

Everywhere, activists still mourn the murder of Roberto Pacheco. The 34-year-old son of prominent forestry activist Demetrio Pacheco was shot dead in September 2020 in the woods he and his family protect from loggers. His father is a leader of the Tambopata Management Committee, which opposes the illegal exploitation of gold in the Madre de Dios region.

“For years Roberto helped his father protect the forest,” said Liliana Jauregui of the Dutch National Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “They both talked about the intruder problem for years, but the authorities did nothing. “

The last official measure to protect activists in Peru was taken last April. A new Supreme Decree established a whistleblower protection system known as the Intersectoral Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The Department of Justice and Human Rights and seven other federal agencies oversee a program to prevent reprisals, intervene quickly if someone is in danger and provide access to justice. People at risk can benefit from personal safety and be placed in shelters.

Already until July, the Ministry of Justice had received 15 requests for protection, more than half of which came from environmental activists or indigenous people. Four requests have been approved, details of which are withheld to protect activists.

“The tools are there. Now we have to make them work efficiently with resources and capacities, so that we no longer have to complain about deaths, ”said Silvana Baldovino of the Peruvian Environmental Law Society in the information portal. Ambient news. “This mechanism gives us the hope and the strength to continue working together to protect and safeguard the lives and rights of activists.

Daniel Sánchez, a former Justice Ministry official now at the Institute for Debate and Development, said Ambient news that the decree obliges the police to intervene quickly when a human rights defender is in danger. Under the decree, environmental activists and environmental defenders – including indigenous peoples protecting their lands – are considered human rights defenders.

The decree was presented in September at the quadrennial IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille. At the event, which was attended by 6,000 people and 3,500 others online, IUCN members approved a resolution on protecting whistleblowers and environmental and human rights defenders. This followed four IUCN resolutions approved in January to support whistleblower reward programs and protect, empower and engage whistleblowers on wildlife and natural resources.

The growing problem of threats against activists was highlighted at the IUCN Congress by Professor Peter Larsen of the University of Geneva. According to Larson’s global survey of 249 IUCN members, a third of those surveyed said conservation work has become less safe. Half of the NGOs surveyed in Eastern Europe and North / Central Asia said they had been attacked, threatened or intimidated, according to the survey.

Read:

Environmental whistleblowers are key human rights defenders, comments to UN


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