International Organizations Call for Accountability Following Attack on Amazonian Land Defender Patricia Gualinga

Amazon Watch, WECAN

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Following recent death threats and acts of hostile intimidation towards Patricia Gualinga Montalvo, an Indigenous Kichwa leader from Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, over 50 prominent global organizations and individuals working for human rights, women's rights, environmental and climate justice, issued a statement of solidarity and a call for accountability.

The collective statement signed by global organizations including Amazon Watch, the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Witness, Frontline Defenders, Urgent Action Fund for Women, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club, and Cultural Survival expresses deep concern regarding the attack targeting Patricia on January 5, 2018, during which an unknown man attacked her home in Puyo, Pastaza province, Ecuador, throwing stones at the windows while yelling death threats against her. The attack broke windows and the assailant yelled directly at Patricia Gualinga and repeatedly threatened her with death.

This attack occurs in the context of the national debate about the future of oil and mining concessions in Ecuador. Amazonian Indigenous women and the affected communities have repeatedly expressed their rejection of these projects, promoted by the government without their free, prior and informed consent.

Global leaders who have added their voice to the letter in solidarity with Patricia also note the growing trend in attacks, murder and intimidation against human rights and Indigenous land defenders worldwide. Last week, Global Witness and The Guardian released new data documenting that at least 197 people were killed in 2017 as a result of their work to protect the land and water, and expose the unjust practices that are threatening the health of their communities.

With these critical points in mind, the statement calls on the Minister of Interior and Ombudsman to implement protection measures to safeguard the integrity of Patricia Gualinga and her family that are in consultation with her and in accordance with her wishes; Urges the Minister of Interior to publicly recognize her legitimate work, and the work of all people who defend rights related to land, territory and the environment; and calls on the Attorney General to promptly and thoroughly investigate the attack, by making the results public and bring the material and intellectual perpetrators to justice.

The statement will be delivered to Ecuadorian government officials including President Lenin Moreno, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Attorney General, to demand an end to impunity in cases of persecution of defenders in the Ecuadorian Amazon such as Patricia.

Gualinga is from Sarayaku, and has helped lead community efforts to protect their ancestral Amazon territory from industrial extraction, including winning a historic case against the Ecuadorian government before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She is recognized nationally and internationally for defending the rights of Indigenous peoples against oil companies, and for amplifying the call to keep fossil fuels in the ground in the Amazon and across the globe.

"If the intent to attack and threaten me was to instill fear to paralyze me, it failed. Following this incident, I am more motivated than ever to stand strong and work to defend the rights and territories of Sarayaku and all of the Amazon threatened by extraction. I'm grateful for the immediate solidarity of Indigenous Amazonian women who are also facing threats, as well as local, national and international allies who are standing with us to demand justice and accountability. We must stand together to protect the Living Forest and Mother Earth for our future generations and all life," explained Patricia Gualinga following the recent attack.

"Unfortunately, the attack against Patricia is not an isolated incident: threats and harassment of indigenous women leaders occur regularly in Ecuador, as they do against indigenous leaders of all genders. We call particular attention to the cases of Bosco Wisum, José Tendentza and Freddy Taish, assassinated indigenous leaders whose deaths have not been fully investigated by the Ecuadorian justice system. As in the case of Patricia Gualinga, many of the indigenous Earth Defenders who have been attacked in Ecuador have opposed oil, mining, or other natural resource extraction on their territories. Throughout Latin America and around the world, those who defend land rights and nature are targeted with physical violence, intimidation, and criminal prosecution, and Ecuador is no exception," said Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch [full statement from Amazon Watch here]

"The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network refuses to stand idly by while the life of Patricia Gualinga is threatened, and we are demanding accountability and justice for her. Ms. Gualinga's selfless and dedicated work to prevent oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon has and continues to protect immense cultural and ecological diversity, and has inspired hundreds of others around the world to find their own voice to stand for the Earth, climate, forests and their communities. Patricia Gualinga has stood for us all countless times, and today we raise our voices to make clear that she does not stand alone. The international community is watching diligently, and we will not allow for continued impunity in attacks against any land defenders, particularly Indigenous women, who are putting their bodies on the line around the world every day to fight for a livable future for all people," said Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International.

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