Peru: Unfounded charges against human rights defender thrown out

5 May 2017, 16:11 UTC | Americas
Máxima Acuña receives 150,000 letters

Environmental defender, Máxima Acuña is in a land ownership battle with one of the world’s biggest gold and copper mines as she refuses to leave the land where her family resides.

In 2011, despite a lack of evidence, criminal charges were brought against her. She also experienced frequent violent attacks by local police. Measures that endeavoured to hinder her activism efforts.

Now five years later, a Supreme Court has ruled that there was no grounds to peruse a trail against her. A massive victory for Máxima and her family.

Earlier this year an Amnesty International delegation visited Máxima Acuña with 150,000 messages of support and solidarity written as part of Write for Rights 2016. The messages also called on the Peruvian government to protect her from intimidation tactics.

After receiving the letters, Máxima Acuña said “I am grateful that I am not alone. I have the support of so many people from all around the world”.

This ruling is not just a victory for Máxima. “Many environmental defenders in Peru have been criminalised through the use of groundless criminal proceedings which seek to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work to defend human rights, by exhausting their physical and emotional strength and their limited resources, in addition to publicly portraying them as criminals," said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Background

Despite a lack of evidence against Máxima Acuña, the Peruvian Attorney General’s office has pursued criminal charges against her since 2011 and brought the case to court. This added to the stigmatisation of Máxima Acuña, who has been portrayed as a criminal by representatives of the Yanacocha mining company. They referred to her activities as “squatting” throughout 2015 and at the beginning of 2016, even though the issue of the ownership of the land is still awaiting legal resolution.

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