Global Human Rights Defence

Amazon - Peru

In the ongoing struggle against climate change, the protection of ecosystems such as the Amazon becomes a catalyst of the problems (WWF, A changing Amazon?, n.d.) we face but it also gives us a glimpse of a possible successful approaches to it. 

The Amazonian basin and forest represent “one of Earth's most precious biological treasures and a major component of the Earth system” (Malhi, et al., 2008). Notwithstanding the biological interest of the region, it hosts numerous indigenous peoples, some completely remote from modern society, who have been interacting with their ancestral lands in a way that matches the definition of sustainable land management (IPCC, 2020). 

This close relationship with their environment puts them in a privileged position to teach us how to approach land and resources management yet it also puts them at primary risk as they are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change. Nevertheless, indigenous peoples are still too rarely considered in public discourse on climate change (UN, Spring 2008). 

The situation in Peru and how the amazon is endangered by deforestation and the country’s policies. 

Deforestation

The deforestation processes that take place in the Amazonian countries, including Peru, regardless of government policies, affect the ecosystem throughout the region, even those countries without the Amazon.

This is due to the essential role of this green giant: supplying humidity to South America, regulating the region’s climate and capturing large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.

Small-scale agriculture has traditionally been the main cause of deforestation in Peru, but not the only one. In recent years, the cultivation of oil palm, cocoa and coca has been gaining ground. The oil is used globally in food production, cosmetics and fuel.

The Peruvian government is taking a long time to build the mechanisms to monitor, control and punish deforestation for these and other activities (BBC, 2020).

Illegal Mining

Illegal gold mining also increasingly threatens the Peruvian Amazon. Peru is the largest gold exporter in Latin America and the sixth in the world. However, experts say that up to 25% of the country’s annual production comes from illegal mining.

Since 2006, Peru has experienced a new fervor for the exploitation of gold in the Tambopata Natural Reserve, one of the most biodiverse in the region, driven by the increase in the price of the metal and by the construction of the Brazil-Peru Interoceanic Route. Until today, Peru has lost around 8% of its original forest.

Killing of Indigenous

Indigenous leaders who denounce deforestation, land trafficking, illegal mining, as well as drug trafficking present in the Amazon and that affect it and the indigenous peoples are being murdered. Two of them from the Cacataibo ethnic group, Herasmo García and Yenes Ríos, were murdered in February of this year in Peru. This is the latest in a series of killings of indigenous leaders from the Amazonian regions Ucayali and Huánuco that, in recent years, have denounced invaders who cultivate coca destined for drug trafficking and land traffickers (Campuzano, 2020).

The leaders of indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon alerted the Government of death threats against indigenous leaders, however the government did not take the necessary measures to protect them. Before the murders, the Justice Minister and the Public Prosecutor’s Office were alerted that six leaders were threatened with death, but received no response. Leaders of the Cacataibo, Ashaninka and Shipibo ethnic groups also reported that eight indigenous communities were at greater risk: one of them was Sinchi Roca, in Ucayali, of which García, one of those killed recently this year, was a leader (Hallazi, 2021).

The forestry authority estimates that 42,000 hectares have been deforested on the lands of indigenous communities, mainly due to drug trafficking. Ricardo Pérez, a member of the Amazon Watch team in Peru, indicates that some of the threatened Amazonian apus have requested guarantees, but the police only give them protection in the cities. In the communities they are facing drug traffickers who want to plant coca, every day they are facing danger.

Since 2011, 220 leaders defenders of the Amazon have been murdered in Peru according to the report ‘Undermining Rights’, presented by the Observatory of the World Organization against Torture and the FIDH, and the National Coordinator of Human Rights.

Deprivation of the indigenous communities’ human rights

 The afore mentioned national policies and the consequences of climate change are generating severe repercussions to indigenous human rights, and what is crucial, they are putting the survival of these indigenous communities at stake. 

These activities affect their access to natural resources which are the keystone to their basic necessities to subsist. Oil extraction has been reported to affect the water and the soil (Survival C. , 2017): high levels of arsenic, mercury, iron, i.e. toxic substances are found in the rivers and the soil. Indigenous communities use the rivers for fishing but the fish stock is declining (WWF, Oil and Gas extraction in the Amazon: CAMISEA, n.d.) which leads to malnutrition. 

Furthermore, following the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, it was found that children from these indigenous communities show high levels of lead and cadmium which can lead “to lung cancer, heart disease, kidney failure and brain damage” (Survival C. , 2017). Their lands, health (Survival, n.d.), physical integrity and way of living are in jeopardy and furthermore, killings, as mentioned above, are increasingly being reported (Peoples, 2020).  

While the indigenous communities have the right to enjoy their own culture, Peru’s activities endanger this right and breaches article 27 (UNGA, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1976) of the ICCPR. Furthermore, the ICESCR, which Peru is a party to, recognized the fundamental right of an adequate standard of living, which includes “adequate food, clothing and housing and, the continuous improvement of living conditions” (UNGA, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1976). 

Additionally, their fundamental rights to life, to humane treatment, to property, among others under the American Convention on Human Rights (IACHR, 1969) and the rights to mental and physical integrity, to liberty and security under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNGA, UNGA 61/ 295 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007) are being infringed. Finally, these activities infringe the provisions of the ILO Convention no. 169 (ILO, 1989) and the national Law no. 29785 granting the right of consultation (Graciela, 2011). 

In essence, this is evidence of serious violations of indigenous human rights and breaches of international law.

The worrying conclusion is that the government and its policies in Peru are not doing enough to preserve the Amazon and protect its indigenous communities. If these levels of deforestation and degradation are not reversed in the Amazon, the consequences of climate change could accelerate across the planet. 

It is therefore important that states, such as Peru, which has the 3rd highest number of indigenous people (IMRG, 2020) and the 2nd largest share of the Amazonian Forest (Atlas, 2017) increase their commitment to the fight against climate change (Association, 2018) and include indigenous communities in the public discussion. Such actions are also mandated both from their obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNGA, UNGA 61/ 295 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007) to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples that walked these lands but also under their engagement as state party to the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, n.d.).

The goal of Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) is to encourage States such as Peru to uphold their international obligations and to grant the rights to all minorities, marginalized groups and to respect their environment. 

Bibliography

Association, C. C. (2018). Preserving Peruvian Amazon Rainforest: a societal challenge. 

Atlas, W. (2017, April 25). Countries Sharing the Amazon Rainforest. Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-sharing-the-amazon-rainforest.html

BBC. (2020, February 18). Destrucción del Amazonas: las principales amenazas para la mayor selva tropical del mundo en los 9 países que la comparten. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-51377234

Campuzano, O. P. (2020). Líderes indígenas bajo amenaza de muerte: “No queremos ser las próximas víctimas”. El Comercio.

Graciela, R. (2011). Peru: New Law Granting Right of Consultation to Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2011-09-27/peru-new-law-granting-right-of-consultation-to-indigenous-peoples/

Hallazi, L. (2021). ¿Qué hay detrás de los asesinatos de líderes indígenas en la Amazonía peruana? El Pais.

IACHR. (1969, November 22). American Convention on Human Rights. Retrieved from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: https://www.cidh.oas.org/basicos/english/basic3.american%20convention.htm

ILO. (1989, June 27). C169 – Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169). Retrieved from International Labour Organization: https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C169

IMRG. (2020, July ). Peru. Retrieved from minorityrights.org: https://minorityrights.org/country/peru/#:~:text=Indigenous%20peoples%20include%20Achuar%2C%20Aguaruna,per%20cent%20of%20the%20population

IPCC. (2020, January). Summary for Policy Makers. Retrieved from Special Report on Climate Change and Land: https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl/chapter/summary-for-policymakers/

Malhi, Y., Roberts, J., Beets, R., Killeen, T., Li, W., & Nobre, C. (2008). Climate Change, Deforestation, and the Fate iof the Amazon. SCIENCE, 169-172.

Peoples, F. (2020, October 06). Peru: Indigenous defenders to denounce the corruption and killings facilitating Amazon forest destruction to the IACHR. Retrieved from Forest People Programme: https://www.forestpeoples.org/en/lands-forests-territories/news-article/2020/indigenous-defenders-denounce-corruption-and-killings

Survival. (n.d.). Los indígenas no contactados de Perú. Retrieved from https://www.survival.es/indigenas/aisladosperu

Survival, C. (2017). Observations on the State of Indigenous Human Rights in Peru. The 28th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review. Retrieved from https://www.culturalsurvival.org/sites/default/files/Peru%20upr%202017_0.pdf

  1. (Spring 2008). Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

UNFCCC. (n.d.). Process and meetings. Retrieved from The Paris Agreement: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

UNGA. (1976, March 23). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

UNGA. (1976, January 03). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx

UNGA. (2007, September 13). UNGA 61/ 295 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html

WWF. (n.d.). A changing Amazon? Retrieved from https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/amazon/amazon_threats/climate_change_amazon/

WWF. (n.d.). Oil and Gas extraction in the Amazon: CAMISEA. Retrieved from https://wwf.panda.org/discover/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/amazon/amazon_threats/other_threats/oil_and_gas_extraction_amazon/camisea_amazon/

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)
(Europe)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher
(Africa)

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher
(Africa)​

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.

 

Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.