Latin America shows why ecocide must be an international crime

Latin America shows why ecocide must be an international crime

Rodrigo Lledó writes:

Before leaving power in 1990, Chilean general and dictator Augusto Pinochet created a legal framework that guaranteed him absolute impunity. It didn’t work. He was arrested on charges of genocide and terrorism in London in 1998 by order of the Spanish justice system and, upon his return to Chile, finally had to face justice.

Years later, I had the opportunity to lead a team of public lawyers trying nearly 900 cases of crimes against humanity during the Chilean dictatorship. Though Pinochet was already dead, his accomplices had to be duly judged. But decades after his rule, human rights continue to be routinely violated in Latin America, often for defending the environment.

Almost 90% of the world’s environment-related killings occur in the region, according to Global Witness, an international organisation that tracks human rights and environmental abuses. A fifth of these incidents – which are only those that are reported, the true number is likely much higher – happen in the Amazon, which spans parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Suriname and Venezuela.

Those reporting on environmental threats in the region also face significant danger. Many will remember the murder of Bruno Pereira, Brazil’s leading expert on isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples, and British journalist Dom Phillips. The experienced pair were killed whilst travelling by boat through the Javari Valley near Brazil’s border with Peru, a region plagued by illegal mining, logging, fishing, and drug trafficking, while researching Phillips’ book on conservation efforts in the Amazon.

Those of us who lived under a dictatorship know that even when the circumstances are bleak, we must work to regain hope and cautious optimism. It was in this spirit that I and more than 700 youth activists, Indigenous environmental defenders and representatives of state parties and civil society organisations met last month in Santiago, Chile, for the third annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP3) to the Escazú Agreement. [Continue reading…]

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