United Nations Secretary General António Guterres was blunt as he spoke at the release of the latest chilling report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on April 4: “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
From Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Colombia, to Ecuador’s Amazon region, the Magdalena River Basin in Colombia and beyond, defenders continue to be unjustly smeared, attacked and criminalized as they organize to protect their communities from the devastating human rights impacts of fossil fuels. Yet there is too much at stake to be silenced. The women of the Mujeres Amazónicas collective in Ecuador speak for all with their pledge: “They will not stop us!”
Sarayaku Indigenous defender Patricia Gualinga of Mujeres Amazónicas joined us on April 23 for an inspiring online conversation about connected struggles across the Americas for water, life, Indigenous rights and climate justice. Afro-Colombian defender Yuvelis Morales of the Committee for the Defence of Water, Life and Land in Puerto Wilches, Colombia and Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) of the Gidimt’en Clan in Wet’suwet’en territory, British Columbia also joined us.
We have a new portal on our website to pages that detail the environmental threats from major, polluting industrial projects that defenders are confronting, no matter what country they are in. Book mark the portal to learn more and check back for new actions that you can take.
Join our Solidarity with Environmental Human Rights Defenders Team to learn more about emblematic struggles and how Amnesty Canada is supporting them. Contact Elena Dumitru at email@example.com
Amnesty Canada has launched a new online action that calls on Canada and Export Development Canada to protect human rights by stopping its financing for fossil fuel expansion in Canada and around the world.
It couldn’t be more urgent! Amnesty’s report, Stop Burning Our Rights, documents the massive role that fossil fuels play in the unprecedented human rights emergency caused by climate change. Canada’s export bank, Export Development Canada, continues to direct billions of dollars in loans, insurance and other support to fossil fuel activity in Canada and other countries. The Canadian government also continues to approve new fossil fuel projects like the controversial Bay du Nord project. Speak up for human rights! Call on Canada to stop bankrolling climate disaster. Add your voice here
Speak up for Threatened Environmental Rights Defenders in Colombia
As efforts continue in Colombia to stop fossil fuel fracking because of its impact on the right to a healthy environment, death threats have increased against leaders who speak out. Afro-Colombian defender Yuvelis Morales was forced to leave the country. Others remain at grave risk. Please sign our Urgent Action to send a message urging Colombian authorities to act. Please encourage your friends to send a message too!
Support Water Defenders on Wet’suwet’en Territory in British Columbia
Amnesty International remains deeply concerned about ongoing RCMP and private security harassment and criminalization of peaceful land and water defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory, who are trying to protect clean drinking water and salmon spawning grounds from an unwanted gas pipeline. United Nations bodies have called on Canada to withdraw RCMP and security forces, yet police continue to patrol the territory. Please sign our online action calling on Canada to withdraw the police and respect Wet’suwet’en law. Learn more here. For more action suggestions, visit this blog.
Support Water Defenders in Honduras and beyond
Determined human rights defenders in Honduras tell us that the tens of thousands of messages of concern from Canada, together with hundreds of thousands more from around the world, played a huge role in enabling them to achieve partial justice for the murder of Lenca Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres. Her assassination, amidst a campaign to stop construction of a hydro-electric dam on the Gualcarque River, has come to symbolize the violence faced by so many other land, water and Indigenous territory defenders across the Americas. That violence is fuelled by the reality that the perpetrators are rarely, if ever, brought to justice. Sustained efforts in Honduras, supported by the solidarity of Amnesty Canada activists, have achieved an important precedent. Seven men are now in jail for carrying out the assassination, and David Castillo, an executive with the company that was building the dam, was convicted last July as a co-author of the crime. Still, almost a year later, Castillo has not been sentenced and other powerful people who plotted and paid for the assassination have yet to be prosecuted.
It’s vitally important to keep the pressure on Honduras to ensure the truth and justice for all behind the murder of Berta. Send your message via this action. Personalize it, for greater impact!
Plant or Adopt a Solidarity Tree
Honour Berta Cáceres and other defenders of water, land, forests and climate justice by planting or adopting a tree in a public space. Create signage that will inspire others, perhaps including the powerful words of Berta: “We have no replacement planet. We have only this one. We have to take action!” Hold an event around your tree and hang blue ribbons from its branches to symbolize the vital efforts of those who defend water and life on our beautiful, blue planet. Reach out to community media so they cover what you do. So far, four groups have shared their plans to move forward with this creative way to engage others in their communities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Good News Updates
If you’re wondering if your solidarity action matters, read on!
In the Winter Activism Guide, we asked you to raise your voice for eight Guapinol River defenders in Honduras, who were arbitrarily jailed for 914 days, accused of crimes they did not commit in order to paralyse community resistance to a mining operation in a controversially re-zoned protected area.
Good News! The defenders were released on February 24, after the Supreme Court of Honduras ruled there was no case against them. “We are so happy. Actually, we are euphoric! We have won at last!” said Orbin Hernández, one of the eight defenders whom Amnesty had declared to be prisoners of conscience. Read more here.
“It is thanks to support from inside and outside Honduras that we are now free from criminal persecution.”Orbin Hernández, Tocoa Municipal Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Assets
There is also good news from Guatemala!
Maya Q’eqchi’ rights and river defender Bernardo Caal Xol, unjustly imprisoned for more than four years, was released on March 24 and reunited with his family. Read our statement here.
“I want to thank international organizations like Amnesty International for such important work to make visible how I was treated like a criminal, even though I committed no crime … I express my gratitude to the people who sent letters, who wrote to send greetings and to encourage me. Justice for the Maya Q’eqchi’ people! Justice for the Cahabón River! The struggle continues!”Bernardo Caal Xol, following his release from jail
Supporters of the English speaking and francophone sections of Amnesty International in Canada together delivered more than 26,500 messages calling for the release of Bernardo Caal Xol and respect for the rights of Maya Q’eqchi’ communities. Our solidarity action is still needed, since the wrongful conviction of Bernardo has yet to be overturned. Instead, authorities said he was released for “good behaviour”. Meanwhile, dam-affected communities continue to denounce violations of their rights. Click here to view Bernardo’s video message after his release, with thanks and an appeal for us to continue to stand with defenders of rights and the environment in Guatemala.
We are consulting with Bernardo and his legal team about follow up action. Meanwhile, click to tweet this message to authorities in Guatemala.
Justice for Bernardo CAAL XOL
Thank you for your solidarity action!
This blog was prepared by Amnesty Canada’s Latin America campaigner Kathy Price.
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