Amazon Watch Welcomes Acquittals in Peru's Baguazo Case, But Denounces Ongoing Impunity for Real Perpetrators

Amazon Watch

For more information, contact:

Andrew Miller: +1 202.423.4828 or andrew@amazonwatch.org
Moira Birss: +1 510.394.2041 or moira@amazonwatch.org


Washington, DC – Late yesterday, Peru's Superior Court of Justice of the Amazonas region announced the long-anticipated verdict in the "Baguazo" trial, throwing out for lack of evidence all charges against the 52 indigenous defendants in the case, including internationally-recognized leaders Alberto Pizango and Santiago Manuin.

Amazon Watch, which supported peaceful indigenous mobilizations in 2008 and early 2009, made the following statement:

"Though Amazon Watch welcomes the acquittal of indigenous leaders in the Baguazo trial (also known as "Devil's Curve"), the process has represented a prolonged injustice against Peru's indigenous movement. The Baguazo case, by design, wasted precious resources that should have gone toward addressing the precarious situation of indigenous peoples.

"The real perpetrators of the 2009 Baguazo massacre of 33 people – political actors and economic interests – continue to enjoy total impunity. The list starts with Peruvian politicians at the highest levels who created an uncompromising atmosphere in which protest was not tolerated and who ordered the police repression. Responsibility, however, doesn't stop at Peru's borders: indirect culpability is shared by trans-national corporations that could have benefitted from the controversial Free Trade Agreement (FTA) laws the protestors were opposing and which have a history of violating indigenous rights at the local level.

"An outstanding question also remains about the role of the United States government in advising the creation of the FTA laws – which favored investor rights over indigenous rights – and in enabling the eventual violent crackdown. According to documents revealed by Wikileaks, the U.S. Embassy appeared to encourage a heavy-handed resolution to the indigenous mobilizations. This hidden international history of the Baguazo still requires clarification.

"Between efforts to criminalize peaceful dissent, the assassinations of environmentalists documented by Global Witness, and the recent attack on Máxima Acuña by Yanacocha Mining personnel, the current scenario in Peru for environmental defenders and indigenous leaders is extremely concerning. Furthermore, the overall situation for indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon remains precarious: dozens of communities are dealing with oil contamination of their water sources, including all those in the vicinity of multiple oil spills that have happened this year along the Northern Peruvian Pipeline; indigenous territories face deforestation from palm plantations, illegal logging, and drug cultivation; hundreds of indigenous communities lack legal recognition of their territory.

"The new Kuczynski government has an opportunity to break with past practices and dedicate the proper political attention to addressing this human rights and environmental crisis."

Background:

Peruvian indigenous peoples mobilized across the Amazon in 2008 and 2009 to protest a package of legislative decrees (similar to executive orders) issued in early 2008 under the banner of implementation of the U.S. – Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Some of the controversial laws, which held significant implications for the rights of indigenous peoples, were not written in consultation with indigenous communities and therefore were later deemed unconstitutional under congressional review. Tensions culminated in a series of violent conflicts between indigenous land defenders and police officers on June 5th, 2009 that resulted in the deaths of 33 people.

Government prosecutors filed charges against 53 individuals (one of whom passed away during the trial) and requested life imprisonment for the two indigenous leaders they claimed were the intellectual authors of the violence. The trial dragged on for over four years, with many rumored verdict announcement dates announced and later postponed.

The Peruvian government has ten days to appeal yesterday's ruling, in which case it would be transferred to the Peruvian Supreme Court in Lima.

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