Peruvian NGO Chief Calls On Gov't To Ramp Up Protection Of Climate Activists

LIMA (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 16th July, 2021) The Peruvian government must adopt a higher ranking legal instruments to give climate activists adequate protection as the existing legal framework cannot ensure their safety and security, Katherine Sanchez, the legal specialist of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law (SPDA), told Sputnik.

Seven climate activists have been killed in Peru since the start of the pandemic, according to the Office of Public Defender. Those responsible were mainly drug and land traffickers and criminals involved in logging or illegal mining.

"The paradox of this situation is that we have made some progress in terms of legislating [the protection of climate activists]. But the legal instruments of this government, as well as the previous one, are too minuscule to protect environment defenders," Sanchez said.

Assaults on climate activists occur mostly in areas of the Amazon. The latest one happened on June 29, when a conservationist and representative of the Ashaninka ethnic group, Mario Lopez, was shot dead. Drug traffickers from the Ucayali region in the Amazon rainforest are believed to be behind the murder.

The protection of climate activists in Peru is ensured under a decree issued by the government and involving 18 ministries. Its limitation, as pointed out by Sanchez, is that it does not entail public budgeting to implement any concrete policies for the protection.

Moreover, there are few to no designated government representatives or law enforcement officers in rural areas for climate activists to seek help from should the need arise, the NGO lawyer said.

To improve the situation, Sanchez believes that Peru should adopt a higher-ranking legal instrument than a simple decree, such as the Escazu Agreement. She urged the government to ratify the document as soon as possible.

The Escazu Agreement is a regional treaty signed by 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries to implement protocols on environmental matters, which include access to justice, information, public participation, in addition to guaranteeing the right of people to enjoy a healthy environment, something that is precisely what conservationists are trying to safeguard.