Madre de Dios, Lima, Perú, December 15, 2021–On December 1, the Civil Chamber of the Superior Court of Madre de Dios, Peru upheld a decision that jeopardizes the rights of a group of Indigenous Peoples living in isolation in the Peruvian Amazon. The court ruled to uphold a logging company’s lawsuit intended to silence the Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Affluents’ (FENAMAD’s) efforts to protect the human and environmental rights of the Mascho Piro people.
EarthRights International is supporting the legal defense of FENAMAD in this case. Its Executive Director, Ka Hsaw Wa, issued the following statement:
“This decision plays into the logging company Canales Tahuamanu S.A.C. ‘s strategy to intimidate FENAMAD and restrict its ability to defend the Mascho Piro people–a community that deliberately lives in isolation. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged through Peru, the government allowed the company to resume operations in the Mascho Piro People’s territory. This decision violates an order from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and jeopardizes the lives of the Mascho Piro.
“This case is an example of a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit, a tool used by corporations to intimidate and silence their critics. Worldwide, human rights and environmental defenders face increasing criminalization as they speak out against abuses associated with the fossil fuels, mining, and timber industries.
“This ruling does not recognize FENAMAD’s work to defend Indigenous people living in isolation in Peru. It also limits FENAMAD’s ability to defend these groups in the future. As a result of the timber company’s aggressive legal actions, FENAMAD was forced to allocate resources and time for its legal defense as it appealed a series of judicial rulings in favor of the timber company.
“The court’s decision ignores national and international legal frameworks to protect Indigenous people who live in isolation and effectively condones the timber company’s abusive tactics. This ruling sets a dangerous legal precedent for other human rights defenders in the region.
“We call on the government of Peru to protect human rights defenders and their organizations, including FENAMAD. Indigenous defenders live and work on the front lines of the climate crisis. Their efforts are essential to highlighting human rights abuses and protecting our planet from climate catastrophe. They must be protected.”
In June of 2020, FENAMAD alerted the Peruvian government and IACHR about the risks that Indigenous peoples living in isolation face as third parties enter their territories at the peak of the COVID 19 pandemic in Peru. People who live in isolation are particularly vulnerable to contagious diseases such as COVID-19. After the state failed to act, FENAMAD issued a public statement in July denouncing these developments. The timber company retaliated, and later that month challenged FENAMAD’s statement, falsely accusing the group of disseminating disinformation about the case. In October, Canales Tahuamanu S.A.C filed a constitutional action against FENAMAD claiming that the organization had damaged its public image.
The judiciary decided in favor of the company in June of this year, ordering FENAMAD to publicize the letter sent by the timber company or it would receive a fine. Additionally, the judge specifically stated “that in the future [FENAMAD] should avoid situations such as the present one, under the responsibility regulated by the current legal system.” On December 1, the Superior Court of Madre de Dios ruled to uphold the order from June.
Kate Fried, EarthRights International