Peru's indigenous leaders face life sentences for defending their rights

Clima-Selvas-Pueblos somos Uno Solo

Peru's indigenous leaders face life sentences for defending their rights

On the 14th May 2014 the trial will begin of 53 of Peru's indigenous leaders who are charged with crimes related to the tragic events at Bagua on the 5th June 2009 where over 20 people died and hundreds were injured after Peruvian forces opened fire on indigenous peoples blockading a road in peaceful protest at the efforts of the Peruvian government to dismantle legal protections for their lands.Amongst the defendants is Alberto Pizango, the current President of AIDESEP alongside 6 others Joel Shimpukat Atsasua, Leo Timias Tananta, Santiago Manuim Valera, Hector Orlando Requejo Longinote, José Gilberto Chale Romero, Merino Trigoso Pinedo all of whom are attempting to defend themselves from the recommendation brought by Peru's public prosecutor to impose life sentences.The alleged crimes are firmly rejected by the defendants who as Pizango states in the attached interview (spanish only) believe that the 'protests were justified given the historical demand of indigenous peoples for respect of their rights to legal recognition of their lands and their right to self determination' and represents 'a failure on the part of the Peruvian government to comply with its role to promote a dialogue with indigenous peoples' and their proposals....Perhaps the only crime that we committed was to express the voice of the people'.The proposed legal measures that triggered the protests, the subsequent military intervention of the Peruvian government and the efforts to persecute indigenous leaders have been widely condemned by Peruvian and international human rights bodies.

In December 2014 the Peruvian government is due to host the next UN climate conference in Lima (COP20) where it will amongst other matters seek to highlight its own commitments to protecting forests and respecting indigenous peoples' rights. In a statement on the eve of the trial, Peru's national indigenous organisation AIDESEP has highlighted that 'It is an absurd contradiction that our leaders and peoples who are defending and protecting the living Amazon, are, at the same time, repressed, penalized and criminalized by the judicial system'.

Click here to read the statement in full in English