PRESS BRIEFING: Peruvian Prosecutors Threaten To Archive The Case

September 26, 2017

After More Than Three Years The Murderers Of The Four Leaders Of Saweto Alto-tamaya Have Yet To Be Investigated Or Prosecuted – Peruvian Prosecutors Threaten To Archive The Case

September 26, 2017

Rainforest Foundation US

On September 25th the Pucallpa criminal prosecutor has ordered the compulsory summons of three witnesses of the massacre of the leaders of the Asheninka indigenous community of Alto Tamaya Saweto in September, 2014. This is one of the few concrete actions taken to investigate the crime over the past years. The prosecutor has indicated that he will archive the case for lack of evidence, an action that likely means that nobody will be prosecuted. Saweto community leaders, relatives of the victims, and allies are fighting to keep the case alive gain justice.

On September 21st, the Peruvian Minister of Culture, Salvador del Solar Labarthe, reached out to the Peru National Prosecutor, Pablo Sánchez Velarde, requesting that the case be kept active and that all possible measures be taken to advance the investigation.

In spite of the fact that three years have passed since the massacre of the Saweto leaders, the perpetrators and intellectual authors of the crime have not been prosecuted, and remain free, continuing to work in the logging industry and frequently harassing Saweto community members who are vulnerable given the remote location of their territory and lack of State security presence in the Ucayali rainforests near the border of Brazil. The international investigative organization Global Witness reports that in 2016, an average of nearly four environmental defenders are killed weekly. These cases are rarely investigated and perpetrators are almost never prosecuted. The Saweto case is emblematic of this regional and global phenomena.

The regional prosecutor for organized crime in the Ucayali department, Dr. Julio César Reátegui Urresti, has failed to take any proactive actions to investigate the case, and plans to archive it on September 30th, claiming that he has no resources to carry out investigative actions and that there is not sufficient evidence to warrant further actions.

The Peruvian National Council of Ministers (PCM) has also failed to carry out its duties since agreeing to the ‘Saweto Agenda” in 2015, where they agreed to ensure justice for Saweto. They are also not complying with the recommendations from the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2015, which ordered Peru to exhaust all available resources to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of the Saweto massacre. 

Rainforest Foundation US has been providing legal support for Saweto since 2014. This is a critical time for the case, which will be archive and likely not investigated without national and international pressure on the regional prosecutor for organized crime. Failure to do so leaves Saweto community members exposed to threat and perpetuates the message that people who kill environmental defenders are immune to prosecution.

For more information, contact:
Margoth Quispe

Human Rights and Land Titling Lawyer

Rainforest Foundation US

511 977667797 / mquispe@rffny.org 

Diana Rios

Leader of Alto Tamaya Saweto

511 985599629

Tom Bewick

Peru Director for Rainforest Foundation US

1 202 999 8108

           

Context and additional information:

History of the Case:

  • Alto Tamaya Saweto is  an Asheninka community in Masisea District, Coronel Portilla Province, Ucayali Department, on the border with Brazil.
  • The investigation of Case Number. 2014-637 Saweto is under the responsibility of Dr. Julio César Reátegui Urresti, the Ucayali regional prosecutor of organized crime.   Cell phone: +51 978278038
  • After the community of Saweto filed a complaint with OSINFOR, the supervising organization for forest and logging investment, who subsequently visited the forest concessions that overlapped with Saweto’s territory in August, 2014, presumed illegal loggers tortured and killed Saweto leaders Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos, Leoncio Quinticima y Francisco Pinedo
  • Saweto Alto Tamaya was awarded their land title in September, 2015, after more than 12 years of pressure to the government, who finally formally reclassified the forest concessions, setting precedent for other indigenous communities who cannot gain territorial rights because the State issued logging permits over their ancestral lands.
  • Saweto lacks most basic services such as health care and a quality education system, and face pervasive threats from illegal loggers and an increase in drug trafficking in the region. The Peruvian government is virtually non-existent in the area.

Photo © Emory Richey.

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