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Spotlight on activist murders as Peru prepares for climate talks

activist murders

New report signs the spotlight on activist murders in Peru ahead of the Lima climate talks. Creative Commons: Emmanuel Dyan, 2009

As Peru gets ready to host this year’s UN climate negotiations, a new report from NGO Global Witness has warned the country is failing to protect activists trying to defend the country’s diminishing rainforest.

The report comes on the heels of a particularly high-profile case of prominent anti-logging activist Edwin Chota and three other indigenous leaders killed in Ucayali in September over land they had spent a decade fighting to protect for their community.

Before he was murdered, Chota had asked for protection after deaths threat from illegal loggers.

Chota had sent the local police photographs of the illegal loggers, many of who have now been charged with his murder.

Patrick Alley, co-founder of Global Witness said:

The murders of Edwin Chota and his colleagues are tragic reminders of a paradox at work in the climate negotiations. While Peru’s government chair negotiations on how to solve our climate crisis it is failing to protect the people on the frontline of environmental protection.

Environmental defenders embody the resolve we need to halt global warming. The message is clear, if you want to save the environment, then stop people killing environmental defenders.

The report – “Peru’s Deadly Environment” – calls into question the commitments of Peru to protect its carbon-rich forests and the people who live in them.

It warns of unfettered illegal logging, which disregards indigenous land claims, something further under threat with the country’s new laws favouring industrial exploitation over environmental protections.

Peru is the fourth most dangerous country to be an environmental defender, behind Brazil Honduras and the Philippines.

In a report earlier this year, Global Witness showed that 57 environmental and land defenders were killed in the country between 2002 and the present day, more than 60% of them in the last four years.

The analysis warned that killing of people protecting the environment has increased sharply over the last decade.

The majority of deaths recorded in Peru involved disputes over land rights, mining and logging.

Around 72% of the country’s indigenous communities still have no way of demonstrating their land tenure rights, and over 20 million hectares of land claims have not yet been processed.

Peru’s rainforests cover an area roughly the size of the US state of Texas, and recently committed to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021.

In 2012 deforestation rates in Peru doubled from the previous year and forest loss now accounts for nearly half the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Across Latin America, strengthening indigenous rights to their land has proven links to healthier forests and lower carbon emissions.

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