As international organizations and personalities supporting this statement, we express our profound indignation and rejections of the decision of the Penal Appeals Court of Ucayali to annul the sentence that condemned the intellectual authors of the assassination of four Asháninka Indigenous leaders in 2014 on the border between Peru and Brazil.
The Asháninka leaders Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos, Leoncio Quintisima and Francisco Pinedo were killed for defending their territories and rainforest from illegal logging, an illicit activity that threatened Indigenous peoples lives and culture. Even though the death threats they received from clandestine logging mafias were repeatedly denounced, the Peruvian state did not provide them the necessary protection. Their assassination is what brought to light their struggle for their rights and environment, ultimately resulting in the legal recognition of the lands of the community of Alto Tamaya Saweto, after decades of wait.
The Saweto case is emblematic, illustrating the violence and impunity suffered by Indigenous human rights defenders in Peru. Following a seven-year legal process, a judge annulled the sentence that condemned two timber businessmen – accused of being the intellectual authors of the assassination – to 28 years in prison. The judges argued a lack of evidence and procedural errors in the initial judgment, sending the case back to the accusation phase.
This decision is a strong affront to justice, memory and the dignity of the victims and their families, who have waited more than two decades to see a recognition of their rights to truth, justice and reparation. This decision is added to other lamentable antecedents like the impunity in the case of Arbildo Melendez, Cacataibo Indigenous leader killed in 2020 in the community of Unipacuyacu. These cases reflect a judicial climate in Peru that favors the illicit interests that attack Indigenous defenders, in a context of institutional crisis and constant threats to democracy and the rule of law.
We express our solidarity with the widows and families of the assassinated leaders and we call attention to the behavior of the Public Ministry and Peruvian judicial branch, which in recent years have acted with bias, delays and a lack of efficiency in the cases of Indigenous defenders, applying discretional and disproportionate criteria to condemn the accused to smaller crimes. Meanwhile in the processes implicating both material and intellectual authors in attacks against the lives of these defenders, delays and irregularities have been reported, even as the presumed perpetrators maintain connections with illegal activities like narcotrafficking, mining, land trafficking and illegal logging.
We call on the international community to publicly express their solidarity in favor of justice in these emblematic cases and to support Indigenous-led initiatives and strategies for self-protection against the multiple deadly threats that they are currently facing.
Environmental Investigation Agency
Friends of the Earth US
Front Line Defenders
If not us then Who
Rainforest Foundation Norway
Rainforest Foundation UK
Rainforest Foundation US
John Knox (Former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment)
Alfred Brownell (Goldman Prize)