Report reveals the role of business and State actors in increasing threats to land and environmental rights defenders

Paris-Geneva-Bogotá, October 5, 2017 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders(FIDH-OMCT) and the Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR) publishtoday a report drawing attention to a largely unexplored phenomenon: thespecific role of economic actors in the vulnerability of individuals and groupsof land and environmental rights defenders, and more specifically, corporateState capture that threatens the security, peace and even the life of thesedefenders.

In a post-conflictcontext, in which many organisations have alerted about the increasing attacksagainst individuals and groups of land and environmental rights defendersworking in the context of extractive industries, the report "Defending land and theenvironment in contexts of extractive industries" describes, through three emblematic cases, the relationshipbetween the State, companies and attacks against land and environmental rightsdefenders.

The accumulation of judicial proceedings, stigmatization, and threats against the lawyers of the Corporación Colectivo de Abogados"Luis Carlos Pérez" (CCALCP), and their chronological relation tokey moments of their work denouncing the negative impact of business activitieson the rights of the Barí indigenous people and several rural communities inthe Catatumbo region, raise questions about the role of businesses in thoseattacks. To reduce the pressure faced by defenders in those regions, it isnecessary to investigate specifically the role of corporate actors in areaswhere armed actors operate, in order to understand how their interests andactions articulate, and take measures to prevent or combat this situation.

Similarly, theunjustified criminalisation of the trade union and environmentalleader Héctor Sánchez Gómez and theacademic and activist Miller Dussán, pointsto the instrumentalisation of criminal law by companies like Pacific E&Pand Egemsa, through the filing of disproportionate complaints or exercise ofundue influence on judges and prosecutors in order to slow down or disruptcollective movements at time when actions to ensure the effective enjoyment ofhuman rights are progressing.

The paradoxical asymmetry between expeditious judicial proceedingsconducted against defenders on the one hand and protracted investigations ofcomplaints brought by defenders, their organisations or communities against theState and companies, suggest a collusion or inaction on the part of stateactors, including the judiciary, against human rights defenders.

The report alsodenounces corporate State capture, as demonstrated by the persecution and surveillance of HéctorSánchez by private security companies contracted by Pacific E&P and lawenforcement bodies, which in some cases are part of mining and energybattalions financed by mining companies through cooperation agreements betweencompanies and law enforcement State bodies. Human rights defenders aretherefore perceived by these actors as enemies to be repressed. The report alsogives several examples of the growing phenomenonof the revolving door, which refers to the unhindered movement ofhigh-ranking personnel between the public and private sectors, and identifiesthis situation as a factor contributing to the vulnerability of defenders.

Considering thesefindings, the Observatory and CAJAR provide a constructive insight on theissue, calling on the State to identify the vulnerabilities of land andenvironmental rights defenders, in particular by characterizing the role playedby economic actors in the context of socio-environmental conflicts. Themulti-causality of violence in the regions should not be an argument to dilutethe responsibility of the State and corporate actors in addressing thesituation of human rights defenders. These recommendations seek to contributeto preventing the escalation of attacks, to consolidate a democratic systemthat recognizes the legitimate work of human rights defenders.

This report sends anurgent call to the different actors to protect land and environmental rightsdefenders. Our organisations call on the Colombian government to strengthenprotection mechanisms, which should act more effectively to prevent the attackssuffered by defenders, and avert the increase of assassinations. They also callon business actors to recognize and refrain from hindering the legitimate andessential work defenders do to ensure respect for human rights linked to theland and the environment in Colombia.

This report is available:

For more information, please contact:

· FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: + 33 6 72 28 42 94 / José Carlos Thissen: + 51 9541 31 650

· OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: + 41 22 809 49 39

· CAJAR: Angelica Chapano : +57 321 381 97 33

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory)was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situationsof repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members, the European UnionHuman Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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