Human Rights Body to Hear of Abuses against Environmental Defenders



October 4, 2010

Human Rights Body to Hear of Abuses against Environmental Defenders

Rising tensions in Mexico and Central America bring issue to a head

Washington, D.C. – The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), a leading non-profit organization that defends the right to a healthy planet, today announced that an international human rights body has granted CIEL’s request to hold a hearing on human rights violations against environmental defenders.

Those who protest the impacts on their communities from mining, oil and gas and other extractive industries are frequent targets of human rights violations, including intimidation, detention and violent attacks on themselves and their families.

CIEL, together with thirteen organizations, asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to hold a thematic hearing on the issue to highlight the troubling rise in human rights violations against activists protesting mining operations in Latin America.  The Commission will hear testimony from five environmentalists from the region, where  struggles against industrial mining have been met with assassination, kidnapping, torture, arbitrary detention, public defamation and criminalization of activists.

“When we called attention to how the mine threatens our health and land, we were answered with criminal charges, arrest warrants and violence.  The company violates our rights, has contaminated our environment and escapes justice; we protest the violations, and we are persecuted,” said Aniseto López of FREDEMI, a coalition of local organizations in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala.

The thematic hearing will help raise awareness of how governments have been complicit and sometimes active participants in these abuses.

“There is a regional trend of increasing attacks on environmental activists throughout Latin America,” said Marcos Orellana, director of CIEL’s human rights and environment program.  “These attacks threaten not only individual defenders, but everyone whose rights are affected by extractive industries.”

As mining delves deeper into Latin America, the need to establish effective State mechanisms to protect environmental defenders is urgent.  “The IACHR has the potential to influence systemic change in the Americas to address this need,” Orellana said.

IACHR is an independent body of the Organization of American States (OAS).  It will hold the hearing on October 25th, 2010, during its 140th period of sessions.


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