PBI contributes to the ‘Report on the Misuse of Criminal Justice Systems to Retaliate Against Environmental Defenders’

Published by Brent Patterson on

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PBI-Guatemala has accompanied the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya since November 2012.

Peace Brigades International contributed to the Report on the Misuse of Criminal Justice Systems to Retaliate Against Environmental Defenders.

That report was submitted on September 21 in connection with the 173d Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The Washington, DC-based IACHR is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) and has the power to monitor State’s compliance with their obligations regarding Inter-American human rights conventions and protocols.

The principal conclusions of the report are:

1- We are facing a true climate emergency. Never before in the history of humanity has the Earth’s climate system been so threatened. And never before have environmental defenders been under such attack.

2- Because of their work, environmental defenders are targeted by a range of stakeholders who view environmental defenders as obstacles to conducting their business. Powerful corporate actors—with the complicity or acquiescence of States— increasingly use a sophisticated tactic of criminalization to impede environmental protection efforts.

3- The misuse of criminal justice systems to retaliate against environmental defenders threatens their lives and generates a chilling effect that limits the ability of all human rights defenders to defend their communities and protect the environment. It enables polluters to gain leverage over environmental defenders and to avoid unwanted attention, regulation, and environmental enforcement.

4- Criminalization is a particularly pernicious threat to environmental defenders. The use of the criminal process by the States and economic actors provides the appearance of legitimacy, such that an outside observer must know significant details about an investigation and the basis for charges to know whether the law and the process are being manipulated for an improper purpose. Criminalization is difficult to identify and document.

5- The criminalization of environmental defenders meets all of the requirements for persecution for belonging to a group.

One of the four key recommendations of the report to the IACHR includes: “Insist on the connection between environmental protection and the defense of human rights, recognize and publicly support the work of environmental defenders, and raise the visibility of the important work they do.”

The report also includes 53 pages of testimonials about organizations and individuals who have been criminalized including these submitted by Peace Brigades International:

1- The Rural Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC), Colombia, page 34

2- La Resistencia Pacifíca de la Puya, Guatemala, pages 40-45

3- The Association for the Protection of Las Granadillas Mountain (APMG), Guatemala, page 45

4- People of San Juan Unite, Guatemala, pages 45-46

5- Bernardo Caal Xol, Guatemala, pages 46-48

6- The Organisation of the Indigenous Me’phaa People (OPIM), Mexico, page 57

The report also includes a testimonial about Dr. Yesid Blanco (on pages 28-30) who is supported by CREDHOS, an organization accompanied by PBI-Colombia as well as the Defenders of the Guapinol River (pages 49-50) who are supported by organizations accompanied by PBI-Honduras.

To read the full 78-page report, please click on Report on the Misuse of Criminal Justice Systems to Retaliate Against Environmental Defenders.

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