For Immediate Release
International Coalition Asks Ecuador’s President Moreno to Protect Earth Defenders From Attacks
Quito, Ecuador - Today, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, an international coalition launched a campaign calling on Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to implement three policies to protect Earth Defenders - those who dedicate their lives to protecting human rights and nature, many of whom are indigenous leaders. An open letter to President Lenin Moreno accompanied the campaign launch.
Environmental and human rights organizations Acción Ecológica, Amazon Watch, Amnesty International, the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU), and the Pachamama Foundation make up the coalition. The groups call on President Moreno to sign the Escazú Agreement, a regional treaty that strengthens environmental rights; implement a national protection policy; and create a protocol for the investigation of crimes against human rights defenders.
"On this day, when the entire world honors the rights and the great contributions of indigenous peoples to nature and society, five sister organizations join forces to begin to build a dream: that all the people in Ecuador who decide to dedicate their lives to protect nature can do so free of attacks and threats," wrote Cecilia Chérrez, Leila Salazar-López, Erika Guevara Rosas, Belén Páez and Elsie Monge, representatives of the organizations of the coalition, in a joint statement.
Since President Moreno took office, and despite some progress in direct dialogue between him and civil society and indigenous organizations, attacks have occurred against indigenous people who defend their rights, land, territory, or the environment from the negative impacts of natural resource extraction projects.
Such attacks frequently go unpunished, exposing these Earth Defenders to dangers that make it difficult for them to continue protecting the rights of people and nature. Among the victims are Patricia Gualinga, Nema Grefa, Salome Aranda and Yaku Pérez, indigenous leaders targeted with stigmatization, death threats, physical attacks and even assassination attempts due to their efforts protect the Amazon or defend the rights of their communities to water, to a healthy environment, or to be consulted about natural resource extraction projects in their territories.
Although each of these attacks were reported through official channels, the authorities in charge of protecting them and investigating these crimes have not yet identified the perpetrators nor masterminds, nor have they guaranteed the conditions for Patricia, Nema, Salomé, and Yaku to continue their important work free from attacks and threats. The work carried out by these leaders is fundamental for society and these attacks, which remain unpunished, can lead to increased risk, intimidation, fear, and self-censorship for them, their communities, or other defenders in the country.
President Moreno has publicly pledged on several occasions to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and to suspend the granting of new mining concessions that do not obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of the affected communities. However, the coalition launching this new campaign today believes that his government must still take concrete actions to put these promises into action.
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Amazon Watch is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems.