UN to the Government of Peru: Stop the criminalization of environmental and human rights defenders

By Milton L. Tarabochia,

3 minutes read

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders of the United Nations (UN), Mary Lawlor, urges the Peruvian State to stop "threats, attacks and criminalization" against those who defend the right to the land of indigenous communities, or the rights to a clean environment.

The message is clear. In Peru there is a criminalization of defenders of human and environmental rights and for the right to land. In addition, the Judiciary is used as a means to "silence" the defenders. This was stated by the current UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, based on the study of three emblematic cases in which citizens said no to mining contamination in the Andes.

Lawlor refers, first of all, to the recent ten-year sentence of César Estrada Chuquilín by the highest national judicial stay, the Supreme Court of Justice. Estrada "has denounced the forced evictions, the harassment of the population, and the environmental damage caused by an open-pit copper and gold mine, known as" Conga ", owned by Yanacocha SRL," as quoted in the official statement of the Special Rapporteur on the UN website.

Jaime Trinidad de la Cruz Gallegos and Jesús Mariano Cornejo Reynoso are the two other defenders that Lawlor cites as criminalized by the Peruvian government. In this case, both opposed the "Tía María" mining project of the Southern Peru Copper Corporation, in Cocachacra district, Arequipa region. Both were convicted of "obstruction of public services" and "riot".

In the case of Jaime de la Cruz, he was sentenced to twelve years and four months; while Jesús Cornejo to seven years and four months. The sentence of both was handed down in the first instance by the First Collegiate Supra Provincial Criminal Court of the Superior Court of Justice of Arequipa.

"It is worrying that crimes such as extortion, disruption of public services, and riots, which carry sentences of more than 10 years in prison, continue to be used to discredit human rights defenders, especially those who oppose large mining projects that impact the environment and the rights of affected communities, "said Mary Lawlor.

Some of the complaints made by the rapporteur are not new, such as the one related to Estrada Chiquilín de Cajamarca. The former special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, during his visit to Peru in 2020, had “noted with concern (this case),” says the UN in its official statement.

In the amazon

However, not only human rights defenders in the Andes have suffered attacks in defense of human rights and nature. In the Amazon, the forestry engineer of the NGO Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo, Lucila Pautrat Oyanzún, has received threats and legal complaints from the company TAMSHI S.A.C., for defending the forests that the aforementioned company deforests through cocoa monocultures in Loreto (Tamshiyacu community).

In March of this year, TAMSHI sued Pautrat for "defamation" and demanded civil damages of up to 100,000 soles (about $ 300,000).

The expert's appeal to the Peruvian government in favor of human rights defenders was supported by other experts such as Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association, and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Photo credit: Sophie Pinchetti.