Indigenous human rights defenders under attack in Huanuco

16 September 2019

On 9 September, Ashaninka leader Polico Díaz Sambache was reportedly attacked and kidnapped en route to meet a delegation headed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The delegation had travelled to the area for the purpose of continuing the process of legal community recognition. Díaz Sambache is the vice-president of the Community Nueva Austria in Huánuco region, and has been representing his community in the quest for legal recognition.

According to reports, Díaz Sambeche was found alive the following day but showing signs of having been severely beaten. Days before his kidnapping, the Union of Ashaninka Yanesha Nationalities (UNAY) had written to the local public prosecutor’s office alerting them of repeated threats against the lives of many community members. According to a report in La Mula, Germán López Ballesteros, the vice-president of UNAY, had been the victim of an attempt against his life at the end of July. Three hitmen came to his home and opened fire, severely injuring a family member who was reportedly mistaken for López. Members of UNAY are requesting urgent measures to ensure his protection, that of his family, and others from these communities.

This area of Huánuco is undergoing significant upheaval as indigenous communities struggle to defend their land against powerful economic interests, often placing community leaders in great danger. Since the regional government has begun to grant land and community titles to many indigenous communities, reports of threats against these have greatly increased.

In an urgent action, the Observatorio para la Proteccion de Derechos Humanos is calling on the Peruvian authorities to adopt all appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of Díaz Sambache and his family. It demands a thorough, effective and impartial investigation into his attack. The Peru Support Group echoes this, calling on the authorities to adopt a comprehensive policy for the protection of human rights defenders, as promised in Peru’s National Human Rights Plan.

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