Shipibo and Ese’ Eja community leaders at Tres Islas in Madre de Dios region are threatening forcibly to expel armed invaders on their lands. This is despite having obtained rulings from the Interamerican Human Rights Commission (IACHR), the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) and the local judiciary ordering local authorities to defend the communities’ land and natural resources. Together with police and government prosecutors, community leaders have failed to dislodge illegal loggers and miners working on their territory.

They have been attempting to assert control over their territory for years, both by blocking access and appealing to the courts. In 2012 they obtained a ruling (Exp. 1126-2011-PHC/TC) by the Constitutional Tribunal. They also won a precautionary measure (No. 113-2016) from the IACHR. Finally, they received a judicial sentence (Exp.675-2017) annulling concessions granted to illegal miners and loggers and affirming the right of the community to the exclusive use of their territory and natural resources.

Despite these legal victories, as is often the case in Peru, the community has experienced difficulties in protecting its rights and achieving enforcement of the law. As recently as July, in a monitoring visit involving government prosecutors and police, illegal miners were found operating in flagrant defiance of the law. Despite this, the prosecutor neither ordered their arrest nor their expulsion. They were simply informed that they were operating in violation of the law.

Another monitoring visit in August, with three policemen present, found 15 illegal miners operating in Pastora Grande Lake. But the police simply took GPS readings and promised to produce a report for future action (which never happened).

Finally, in October the community attempted to expel the miners from the lake on their own initiative but met with armed resistance.

The community’s situation is known to the environmental prosecutor, the environmental police, the specialist public prosecutor at the Justice Ministry and the Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría). But no effective action to enforce the law has so far been taken. The community is demanding that the local and national authorities enforce the IACHR’s precautionary measure , execute the TC’s sentence, and that the regional government comply with the annulment of the mining concessions as ordered by a regional judge.

Community members believe that they have exhausted all available legal measures to achieve recognition and respect for their rights and that, in the absence of effective law enforcement, their only alternative is to take the law into their own hands and attempt to evict the invaders by force.

This is yet another example of how lack of enforcement by a weak and/or corrupt state authorities creates the conditions for conflict and violence.