Action Alert: Demand Justice in Peru!
Join us in demanding justice for internationally-respected Peruvian indigenous leader Santiago Manuin! If you have not already done so, you have untill the end of the week to sign this global petition on behalf of Manuin. Peru’s Pro-Human Rights Association (APRODEH) will deliver the letter to Peruvian President Alan Garcia on August 10th in honor of the United Nations recent declaration of August 9th as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. For a succinct summary of Manuin’s case, please see the below Associated Press article.
Sincerely, Amazon Watch Peru Campaign Team
Jail and trial are next for wounded Peru Indians
By ANDREW WHALEN, Associated Press Writer – Tue Aug 4, 2:00 am ET
CHICLAYO, Peru – Santiago Manuin is lucky to be alive. On June 5, the Awajun Indian leader was hit by at least four bullets when police broke up a protest by Indians over government plans for large-scale economic development of their ancestral lands in the Amazon.
Inside his hospital room, Manuin lies in a bed while a plastic pouch drains his intestines. Outside the door, five police officers lounge on wooden benches, AK-47 assault rifles resting across their knees.
Manuin is the most prominent of 48 protesters wounded in the June melee who face jail the moment hospital doctors sign discharge papers, according to Peru’s main Amazon Indian federation.
Critics of the government say it is no way to treat people who engaged in peaceful civil disobedience — blocking roads and rivers — to protect their traditional lands from the oil drilling, mining, farming and logging projects envisioned by President Alan Garcia.
Negotiations to resolve the dispute, involving 350,000 Amazon Indians, will be difficult if the government treats the protest leaders as criminals, the U.N. special envoy on indigenous rights, James Anaya, said last week.
The dark, wiry Manuin is more blunt.
“Justice doesn’t exist for the indigenous. The government values the police more than us and doesn’t want to acknowledge its mistake,” the 53-year-old apu, or tribal leader, said from his hospital bed.
The government’s mistake, Indian leaders and sympathizers say, has been to vilify protest leaders while failing to consider that police might have used excessive force. At least 10 civilians and 23 police officers were killed in the violence, while 200 civilians were wounded, 82 by gunshot, according to Peru’s ombudsman’s office.
“It’s very surprising that while there are criminal investigations against people accused of killing police, no one has been arrested or implicated for the abuses that led to the death of the indigenous protesters,” said Susan Lee, director of Amnesty International’s Americas program. Amnesty says it has gathered testimony telling of police abuses.
Peru’s justice minister, Auerelio Pastor, defended the police action before a U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Monday and said the government has no plans to drop any charges.
The government’s request that protesters clear the road “by no means justifies acts of violence, and the seizure of highways and interruption of public services is illegal,” he said.
Pastor also echoed a claim repeatedly voiced by Garcia: that unidentified foreign elements have incited the Indians to instigate the violence.
The president of AIDESEP, the Indian federation that organized the protests, says 120 Indians have been charged with crimes including murder and sedition. Many wounded Indians have not sought medical attention for fear of arrest, the federation’s president, Daysi Zapata, told The Associated Press.
AIDESEP’s top leader, Alberto Pizango, and two other officials of the organization have taken asylum in Nicaragua from sedition and rebellion charges.
In a July report following a visit to Peru, Anaya, the U.N. envoy, called for an independent, internationally backed investigation into the violence.
The government has yet to publicly respond.
Manuin is expected to be released from the main hospital in Chiclayo shortly after an operation this week to close the hole in his stomach and reconnect his intestines. He will then be jailed and tried on charges of inciting murder and unrest, which carry a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison. His lawyer has appealed to reduce his arrest warrant to an order to appear in court.
The Jesuit-schooled Manuin is an internationally recognized activist who met with Spain’s Queen Sofia in 1994 after leading Awajun resistance to leftist rebels who tried to get his people to grow coca, the basis of cocaine.
On June 5, when heavily armed police advanced toward nearly 5,000 protesters at a highway blockade, he says he approached the officers seeking to talk.
“I never made it because they opened fire when I was about 50 meters (yards) away,” Manuin said. Bullets tore open his left side.
Other protesters saw he was hurt, and “hand-to-hand combat broke out to remove the guns from police,” he added.
Erroneous reports of Manuin’s death spurred a bloody reaction hours later when Awajun protesters killed 12 police officers they had taken captive at an oil pipeline station.
Manuin faults the government, not the police officers, who he says told Indian leaders on June 4 that their superiors in Lima had ordered them to clear the highway.
The Cabinet chief at the time, Yehude Simon, said the entire Cabinet voted to issue the order. He and the then-interior minister were replaced last month as Garcia sought to allay public criticism of his handling of the protests.
The Indians had been blockading jungle highways and rivers on and off since last August, demanding the revocation of 11 decrees issued by Peru’s president last year under the rubric of a free trade pact with the United States.
Peru’s Congress repealed two of the decrees after protests last year and two more after June’s bloodshed. Indians feared the decrees would lead to a widespread land and resource grab by private companies.
Despite the revocations of some of the decrees, 75 percent of Peru’s Amazon remains carved up into oil concessions, with the government owning all subsoil rights.
“If they want to put the Amazon up for sale, they’ll do it by spilling blood. Period,” Manuin said.
–FULL TEXT OF LETTER TO PERUVIAN PRESIDENT ALAN GARCIA BELOW–
Peru, July 21, 2009
Dr. Alan García Pérez
President of the Republic of Peru
Dear Mr. President -
As citizens of Peru and the world, we are writing to you about the disproportionate and violent police incursion carried out to remove protesting indigenous people in Bagua, Amazonas, that Santiago Munuin Valera, a 52 year old Awajun indigenous leader, has been seriously injured. At the moment that he was shot, he was unarmed and calling for peace.
Santiago Munuin, chief of the indigenous leaders (Apus) of the five River-basins of Santa María de Nieva, is one of the most important leaders of the Aguaruna-Huambisa communities. A pacifist and founder of the Jesuit Social Center SAIPE, he was also President of the Aguaruna-Huambisa Council (CAH) and the Organizing Committee for Respect of the Indigenous People of Condorcanqui Province, Amazonas. He has been internationally recognized for this commitment to the environment and human rights.
This past June 5th, Santiago Manuin was shot 8 times throughout his body with bullets coming from AKM rifles. As a product of this disproportionate use of force by members of the DINOES, the Awajun leader was rushed to the Las Mercedes hospital in Chiclayo.
This situation notwithstanding, this past June 13th, Francisco Miranda Caramutti, judge with the First Penal Court of Utcubamba, ordered the search, finding, capture, and booking (order no. 0610-09-1) of Santiago Manuin, for his responsibility in the confrontation that happened in “The Devil’s Curve”, in which dozens of people were killed, among them police and indigenous citizens. Given Manuin’s history, it is surprising and outrageous that the court is attempting to hold him responsible for the lamentable death of police officers.
In recent weeks, some authorities have pressured for this pacifist indigenous leader to be released from the hospital and taken to the local jail, even as his health situation continues to be delicate and requires medical attention. Manuin has 8 gunshot wounds in his body and is at great risk of infection. Because of the gunshots, his colon is outside of his body that requires a prolonged and intensive treatment. Additionally, he is diabetic, which makes more difficult the healing of his wounds and requires new surgical procedures. At the moment the hospital’s doctors have indicated that he won’t be released until he has recovered fully.
Similar to the case of Santiago Manuin, there are other cases of indigenous leaders facing legal charges, investigations, and legal persecution. The Peruvian government intends to hold them responsible, both materially and intellectually, for various violent acts. Amongst them we mention Alberto Pizango Chota, Saúl Puerta Peña, Cervando Puerta Peña, Teresita Antazú López, Marcial Mudarra Taki, Daysi Zapata Fasabi, Walter Kategari Iratsimery, Roger Muro Guardián, and Milton Silva, amongst leaders, even though there isn’t valid evidence to support the accusations against them.
In this regard, the recent report on the events in Bagua and Utcubamba by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, “reiterates the recommendation to revise the criminal charges against the individuals and indigenous leaders and urges the State to carefully justify future claims, given the special circumstances that have arisen surrounding the alleged crimes and the need to create adequate conditions for dialogue”.
The Special Rapporteur also emphasizes that “while recognizing the need to preserve the public order and to investigate and punish those responsible for crimes and/ or human rights violations, the use of criminal recourse should not be the standard route for dealing with social unrest and protest, but should instead be applied as a last resort and should be strictly limited to the principle of social necessity in a democratic society”.
We have no doubt that behind the arrest warrant of Santiago Manuin and other leaders, exist forces not only driven by legal motivations but also by a political interest to criminalize public protests in Peru.
Given this, we the citizens of the world in exercise of our rights and ethical responsibility to defend life and human rights from any kind of abuse, are asking that:
An investigation be initiated around the attempt on the life of Santiago Manuin Valera (ID# 337600081, 52 years old) and that the material and intellectual authors be brought to justice.
Economic reparations be paid to this Awajun leader, that he be provided with quality medical expertise independent of the State, and that the State guarantee his health and complete recovery, assuming the costs of medical attention for the injuries he has suffered.
Legal harassment against Santiago Manuin and other social leaders be ended, that the police officers that surround the hospital where Manuin is being interned be called off, and that the arrest warrant be changed to a summons for a court appearance.
We reiterate our belief in the innocence of Santiago Manuin, for whom we are expressing our solidarity.
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