Ecuador: Faced with a lack of state protection, Amazonian Women are risking their lives to defend the environment
The Ecuadorian authorities’ capacity and will to adequately and effectively provide protection and conduct criminal investigations into the attacks and threats against Amazonian Women’s environmental defenders is placing their lives at risk, as well as those of others who are protecting the Amazon from political and economic interests linked to large-scale extractive projects on Indigenous territories, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.
‘They will not stop us’ Ecuador: Justice and protection for Amazonian Women, defenders of the land, territory and environment exposes the failings of the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s Office when responding to a series of attacks and death threats recorded in 2018 against Patricia Gualinga, Nema Grefa, Salomé Aranda and Margoth Escobar. The four women are members of Amazonian Women, a collective comprising dozens of Ecuadorian women defending the Amazonian environment and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
The work of environmental defenders such as Amazonian Women and other Indigenous Peoples’ organizations is urgent and necessary in Ecuador and across the world given the increasingly clear impacts of the global environmental crisis on the human rights of us all.
“Despite the promises of President Moreno’s government, the lack of will to seriously investigate these attacks against human rights defenders and provide them with adequate protection sends a clear message to society: that these crimes are tolerated in Ecuador. This is unacceptable,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
“The work of environmental defenders such as Amazonian Women and other Indigenous Peoples’ organizations is urgent and necessary in Ecuador and across the world given the increasingly clear impacts of the global environmental crisis on the human rights of us all.”
The lines of investigation and protection measures that the Ecuadorian authorities have offered the victims appear to ignore possible motives for the attacks related to the challenges they pose to large-scale economic interests and traditional gender roles, through their role as Indigenous women leaders and human rights defenders.
“This attack is in retaliation for my fight to defend life and our territories from the threat of oil exploitation,” stated Salomé Aranda in May 2018, after a number of unidentified individuals had threatened her and her family and attacked them with stones at their home.
We are united and we will continue our struggle to defend Mother Earth.
Amazonian Women notes that the authorities responsible for investigating these actions are neither promptly collecting nor analyzing critical evidence that could help identify those responsible. Faced with these failings, in practice the women defenders end up taking on the burden of the investigation themselves.
Amazonian Women also criticizes the protection measures offered to its members as inadequate and insufficient for the particular needs and exceptional risks they face every day.
Regardless of the possible causes of these failings, they hold clear and concrete consequences for the lives of defenders in Ecuador. In a country in which attacks against them go unpunished and where the authorities are not fulfilling their responsibility to guarantee their safety, many people are faced with the permanent dilemma of risking their own and their families’ lives to defend human rights and the environment.
“President Lenín Moreno and the new Attorney General have an opportunity to put an end to this serious situation and guarantee justice and protection to Amazonian Women and anyone defending rights in Ecuador. To do this they need to implement a national protection policy and a protocol for investigating crimes against them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
Despite the impunity and lack of protection, Patricia Gualinga is clear that they will never surrender: “We are united and we will continue our struggle to defend Mother Earth.”
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