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Persecution of Indigenous Leaders Continues in Peru
by James Anaya

July 31, 2009

Lima, Peru - San Francisco-based Amazon Watch is among dozens of human rights organizations calling on the Peruvian government to drop legal charges against Santiago Manuin Valera, the highly revered Awajun indigenous leader currently recovering from injuries suffered during attack on protesters by Peruvian Police on June 5th. Manuin, who was unarmed, was shot eight times as he approached Peruvian special police, attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to end the police attack on the blockade in Bagua, in the Amazonas Province. Currently, a squadron of police officers is standing by to arrest Manuin upon his discharge from a Chiclayo hospital where he has been undergoing surgery and rehabilitation. The government of Peruvian President Alan García has accused Manuin of being responsible for the two days of violence that ensued the June 5th police attack, resulting in 34 deaths and over 200 injuries.

Francisco Soberón, Executive Director of Peruvian human rights organization APRODEH, called the criminal charges politically motivated. "We have no doubt that behind Santiago Manuin's capture order there are pressures that don't have to do with legal considerations but that follow the political logic of the criminalization of social protest in Peru."

Five other indigenous leaders have been forced into exile and hiding after warrants were issued for their arrest on the charge of being "apologists for terrorism" and planning to overthrow the state for their appearance in a press conference in May. The government is pursuing over a dozen legal proceedings against regional and national leaders. Most of these leaders were not in Bagua on July 5th, however the government continues to hold them materially and intellectually responsible for the events that day. Police have raided indigenous organization offices and communities, as many leaders live in fear of imminent arrest. Investigations have focused exclusively on indigenous people and not the police violence that resulted in over 200 people being hospitalized after the government's violent clampdown on the protests.

"There must be an impartial and independent investigation into the June 5th violence in order to create a climate of reconciliation and peace with indigenous people. The intimidation and politically motivated persecution of indigenous leaders must stop," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch. "The government cannot engage in meaningful dialogue with indigenous communities to resolve conflict if their elected leaders are in exile, hiding, or jail."

UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, recently made public his final report on the Bagua assault. In his report, Anaya echoes the concerns of indigenous communities and civil society groups. The report highlights the immediate need for an impartial investigation, review of charges against indigenous leaders including Santiago Manuin and AIDESEP President Alberto Pizango, and creation of a framework law on indigenous community consultation.

James Anaya's full report on the Bagua, Peru violence can be reads here:

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