The ruling of the Supreme Court of Peru marking the end of the trial for land invasion against the human rights defender Máxima Acuña Atalaya is a landmark decision for environmental defenders in the country, Amnesty International said today.
After almost five years of proceedings in relation to unfounded criminal charges of land invasion, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that there was no reason to pursue the groundless trial of the defender for land invasion.
“Many environmental defenders in Peru have been criminalised through the use of groundless criminal proceedings which seek to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work to defend human rights, by exhausting their physical and emotional strength and their limited resources, in addition to publicly portraying them as criminals,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
It is fundamental that the authorities take effective measures to stop the use of the criminal justice system to intimidate and harass human rights defenders.”
On 14 February this year, an Amnesty International delegation visited Máxima Acuña and her family to deliver over 150,000 messages of support and solidarity collected from around the world, calling on the Peruvian government to protect her from any attack or act of harassment or intimidation. That same day she was visited by the Minister for Justice and Human Rights in order to confirm the status of the implementation of the precautionary measures granted to Máxima Acuña by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Between 2011 and 2014, Máxima Acuña Atalaya reported several incidents of harassment, attacks and eviction attempts on the part of the Peruvian National Police.
Despite a lack of evidence since the beginning of the criminal proceedings in 2011, the Peruvian Attorney General’s office decided to continue with the criminal investigation and take the case to court. This added to the stigmatisation of Máxima Acuña, portrayed as a criminal by a smear campaign in which representatives of the Yanacocha mining company referred to her activities as “squatting” throughout 2015 and at the beginning of 2016, even though the issue of the ownership of the land is still awaiting legal resolution.