The Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos is an organisation created in 1997 by the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)). On 6 November the Observatorio released a call to ‘urgent action’ on behalf of indigenous leader Huber Flores, from the Shipibo-Conibo community of Santa Clara de Uchunya, in the Ucayali region. There are fears for his safety following an incident in which he was surrounded by 15 men carrying automatic weapons, who demanded that he leave his community.
The threats are reportedly related to his defence of the communities’ territory against agro-businesses, including palm oil industries. According to the Observatorio, only 200 out of the 8,600 hectares that form their ancestral lands have a legal title. This has put them in a vulnerable position, as illegal land grabbers are attempting to take their land to sell it for profit to agro-industrial interests.
The most recent incident against Huber Flores is part of a pattern of threats and attacks against indigenous community leaders that appears to be escalating in recent years. In September 2017, the PSG reported on the killings of 6 small-scale farmers in a conflict over deforestation in the district of Nueva Requena, also in the Ucayali region. The killings seem to be linked to the Shipibo community’s resistance to commercial mono-cultivation.
This is not the first time that Huber Flores has been threatened. In 2012, he received threats for refusing to leave his land in exchange for money. In January 2014, his home was set on fire by unknown individuals.
The Observatorio asks the international community to put pressure on the Peruvian authorities, expressing concern and urging the authorities to take a number of steps. First, they should provide immediate protection measures to guarantee the safety of Huber Flores and his family. Second, they need to carry out an impartial and thorough investigation into the threats. Third, they must take urgent measures to stop the violent expansion of industrial agro-businesses that result in the increased vulnerability of indigenous people living in Ucayali and the broader Amazonia, and violation of their rights. If any readers would like to send an email to the authorities as suggested by the Observatorio, please follow the link to their Urgent Action.