Over 30 killed during protests in the Peruvian Amazon

Nine demonstrators and 24 police officers were confirmed killed during protests by Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon town of Bagua. At least 169 demonstrators and 31 police were also injured and at least 79 people were arrested, including several minors.

“The situation in the Amazon remains critical,” said Nuria Garcia, Amnesty International’s researcher on Peru. “It is vital that the authorities take decisive measures to prevent human rights violations being committed or that their actions lead to an escalation of violence.”

For over 50 days, Indigenous communities in the department of Amazonas have been protesting about a series of legislative decrees over the use of land and natural resources in the Amazonian jungle. The decrees are part of the free trade agreement between Peru and the United States.

Indigenous communities were not consulted on this legislation, despite the Peruvian state’s obligations under International Labour Organization Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. As a result of the protests, the government declared a state of emergency in the area for 60 days on 9 May.

On Friday, the National Police forcibly removed Indigenous protestors who had blocked the approach road to the town of Bagua. Amnesty International has received reports of an escalation in violence including the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, as well as cases of police officers being abducted and killed by members of Indigenous communities.   

Several leaders of the Indigenous organizations have charges pending against them for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy to rebellion and against public order. Among these is Alberto Pizango Chota, President of the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle).

The authorities issued an arrest warrant for Alberto Pizango on Saturday. He is reported to have sought refuge at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Lima on Monday.

“It is essential that the relevant authorities carry out an immediate and impartial investigation to establish the truth about the crimes that have been committed and to bring to justice all those responsible, regardless of who they are,” said Nuria Garcia.

Amnesty international said that, although the authorities have the right and duty to guarantee law and order, they should do so with proportional use of force, complying at all times with their obligations to respect human rights.   

“The right to life, to physical integrity and to be free from torture and ill-treatment, are rights that should be respected at all times however exceptional the situation,” said Nuria Garcia, Amnesty International’s researcher on Peru.   

The organization also called on the leaders of the Indigenous organizations to send a clear message to demonstrators that the taking hostages and the killing of law enforcement officers are unacceptable.