Servindi, 23th May, 2014.- A megatrial of 53 accused, including more than twenty indigenous Amazonian leaders, can affect the image of Peru as part of the preparations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Lima, Global Witness stated.
The defendants face up to life imprisonment for their role in protests in the Amazonas region that ended in a fatal government crackdown in June 2009, were at least 30 people died and more than 200 were injured.
“It is tragically ironic that the hosts of a major climate summit are criminalising people who tried to save the Amazon from destruction,” said Andrew Simms of Global Witness.
“Tropical forests are a key line of defence against global warming, and are worth more in every sense standing than they are cut down. People who put themselves on the line to prevent deforestation should certainly not be stripped of their rights, their land and thrown in jail” Simms added.
Seven indigenous leaders, including some that were not present in the conflict area, could be sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly inciting violence.
The protests were a response to a government decree that was passed without consultation, so that communal land could be opened up to oil, logging and mining.
The case has become one of the most important trials in the history of the country, and has been characterized by a lot of misinformation and a lack of impartiality. (1) Preliminary investigations were focused on the indigenous peoples, instead of identifying the politicians and chiefs of police responsibilities.
The Peruvian government is trying to show the international community that promotes the rights of indigenous peoples while is prepareing a more progressive forest legislation. But in fact "the State takes to court those same indigenous leaders that is working with."
In 2009 the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called for an independent special committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the events of that day.
James Anaya added that: “The prosecution of indigenous people for protests should not be used as a method to suppress freedom of expression, and should be done only in cases where there is clear evidence of criminality.” (2)
Global Witness recent report, Deadly Environment, ranked Peru as one of the countries where people are most at risk from state-sponsored killings of land and environmental defenders.
From 2012 to 2013, there were at least 21 civilian deaths or assassinations resulting from such disputes, with indigenous communities worst affected.
(3) Global Witness report can be accesed here: http://www.globalwitness.org/sites/default/files/library/Medio%20ambiente%20mortal.pdf
Translated from Spanish to IWGIA and Servindi by Luis Manuel Claps.