At the end of a year of the murder of Sergio Rojas, the IACHR expresses concern over the situation of threats, harassment, and violence against indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in Costa Rica

Press Release
Press Release

At the end of a year of the murder of Sergio Rojas, the IACHR expresses concern over the situation of threats, harassment, and violence against indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in Costa Rica

18 March - Washington, DC  - reposted (original available here)

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights expresses its concern at the situation of threats, harassment and violence that indigenous leaders and human rights defenders are currently facing in the area of ​​Buenos Aires, province of Puntarenas, in Costa Rica, in which a conflict between indigenous communities and third parties.

In particular, in recent weeks the IACHR received information on death threats and incitement to violence against human rights defenders Gustavo Oreamuno Vignet and Jeffrey López Castro, both members of the Association of Popular Initiatives Ditsö, in the province of Puntarenas. These threats were also allegedly against family members of the Ditsö Association of Popular Initiatives. According to the information received, the threats intensified as a result of the human rights work and the public denunciation of the murder of the human rights defender Jerhy Rivera Rivera, which took place on February 24, 2020, one day after to initiate new actions aimed at recovering land in the Bröran Terraba Territory, in the same province. In accordance with information provided by the State, the alleged perpetrators of the events were identified by the authorities, arrested and investigated, and the corresponding judicial process began.

In this regard, considering the context in which the events occurred, the IACHR highlights the importance of the territory for the physical and cultural survival of indigenous peoples, and reiterates the provisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in the sense that the lack of identification , delimitation and effective demarcation by the States with respect to indigenous lands can create a climate of permanent uncertainty, consequently affecting the social peace of the community.

The IACHR observes that March 18 marks the one year anniversary of the murder of Sergio Rojas, Bribri indigenous leader, who was the beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in April 2015. In this regard, according to published information, the Commission notes the lack of substantive progress in the line of investigation, which has the consequence that the perpetrators have not been prosecuted. The IACHR reiterates that this crime must be seriously, promptly, thoroughly, independently, and impartially investigated, and that the intellectual and material perpetrators must be punished.

Furthermore, the IACHR recalls that, pursuant to Precautionary Measure 321-12, the State must adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the members of the Teribe and Bribri indigenous peoples in the province of Punta Arenas. The IACHR calls on the Costa Rican State to reinforce the comprehensive protection measures adopted in favor of indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in the territories of Salitre and Térraba, as well as to investigate these events promptly and diligently. In the investigation, the State must include lines where it is hypothesized that these acts of violence have motivated activity as human rights defenders.

The Commission reiterates that acts of violence and other attacks against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees of every human being, but also violate the fundamental role they play in society. These acts also harm all those for whom they work, leaving them in a state of greater vulnerability, even going as far as helplessness.   

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 057/20