Peru: Situation in Amazon conflict 'critical' says Amnesty

Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the situation in the Peruvian Amazon following violent events in the town of Bagua on Friday 5 June which led to at least 30 demonstrators and 22 police officers being killed and more than 150 demonstrators and 24 police injured.

For nearly two months, Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting about a series of legislative decrees over the use of land and natural resources in the Amazonian jungle.

On 5 June the National Police forcibly removed Indigenous protestors who had blocked the approach road to the town of Bagua. This resulted in the deaths and injuries of demonstrators and officers.

Amnesty International’s Peru Researcher Nuria Garcia said:

"The right to life, to physical integrity and to be free from torture and ill-treatment, are rights that should be respected at all times however exceptional the situation.”

Amnesty International notes that although the authorities have the right and duty to guarantee law and order, they should do so with proportional use of force, complying at all times with their obligations to respect human rights.

The human rights organisation also called on the leaders of the Indigenous organisations to send a clear message to demonstrators that the taking of hostages and the killing of law-enforcement officers are completely unacceptable.

Nuria Garcia said:

"The situation in the Amazon remains critical. It is vital that the authorities take decisive measures to prevent human rights violations being committed.

“The relevant authorities must carry out an immediate and impartial investigation to establish the truth about the crimes that have been committed and to bring to justice all those responsible, regardless of who they are.”

Amnesty International also urged the Peruvian authorities to make public information on those detained by the police and the military, and to guarantee the right to life, to physical integrity and to a legal defence for all detainees.

The organisation called on the Peruvian authorities to ensure that they consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous Peoples through their representative institutions before adopting and applying legislative or administrative measures that affect them.

Background

Protests arose in the context of a free trade agreement between Peru and the United States. Indigenous communities were not consulted on this legislation, despite the Peruvian state’s obligations under Convention 169 of the ILO. As a result of the protests, on 9 May the government declared a state of emergency in the area for 60 days.

Amnesty International has received reports of an escalation in violence including the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, as well as cases of police officers being abducted and killed by members of Indigenous communities.

Several leaders of the Indigenous organisations have charges pending against them for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy to rebellion and against public order. Among these is Alberto Pizango Chota, President of the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle). On 6 June the authorities issued an arrest warrant for Alberto Pizango. Yesterday Alberto Pizango was reported to have sought refuge at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Lima.

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