UN TREATY URGENTLY NEEDED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, SAYS NEW REPORT

Geneva, Switzerland, 11 June 2014 – Defenders of the environment often face terrible consequences for their actions, suffering rights violations and violence, according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International to be released on June 26, during the 26th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on June 10-27. [1]

“A new case of violence against environmental rights defenders and violations of their rights is reported to us on average once a week, and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International Economic Justice International Program Coordinator.

Friends of the Earth International recorded more than 100 incidents of violence against environmental rights defenders and violations of their rights in 27 countries around the world in the period from November 2011 to October 2013, according to the report.

Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa) said, “In South Africa, as we saw in the killings of workers at platinum mining company Lonmin’s Marikana mine in August 2012, corporate wealth invested in the extractive industry in the country and the continent will continue to be put before the lives of those who labour to maximize profit in an system that does not support them. Workers demanding a fair wage, safer working conditions and a healthier environment at home face a brutal State and business who continue to collude to end protests challenging the status quo. We call on the South African government to take a strong position in Geneva and support a process for legal mechanisms that hold corporations accountable for their actions [2]”.

More than half of the killings recorded by Friends of the Earth International between November 2011 and October 2013 were targeted assassinations of peasant leaders and deaths of peasants during violent confrontations regarding land disputes, often involving the protection of peasant territories from polluting development projects such as hydroelectric dams, monoculture plantations or the extraction of oil, gas and minerals.

The new report calls on the UNHRC to create an international treaty to address corporate human rights violations. [3]

“Environmental defenders who uphold the right of communities to determine their own development path in opposition to corporate-driven mega projects are subject to many types of human rights abuses, often committed by corporations or on their behalf,” said Ortiz.

Friends of the Earth International is part of the Treaty Alliance, an alliance determined to stop corporate human rights violations, and wants UNHRC member States to support a resolution to ensure a legally binding system to bring corporates to justice for human rights violations, as well as remedies and justice for affected people. [4]

“We urgently need an international treaty to address corporate human rights violations. By recognising environmental activism in all its expressions as legitimate defense of human rights, we can contribute to the struggle of environmental rights defenders and keep them safe,” said Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth Uruguay trade and investment campaigner.

The following environmental defenders will be in Geneva on June 23-27:
1) Micaela Antonio Gonzalez from Guatemala and Victor Barro from Friends of the Earth Spain will expose the human rights violations by Spanish company Hidralia in Guatemala.
2) Abeer Al Butmah from Friends of the Earth Palestine will expose the human rights violations by Israeli water company Mekorot in Palestine.
3) Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Paul de Clerck from Friends of the Earth Europe will expose the human rights violations by oil giant Royal Dutch Shell in the Niger Delta.
4) Alberto Villarreal will expose the violations to the human right to health posed by the Philip Morris International challenge to the tobacco control legislation in Uruguay.

Friends of the Earth International is critical of 'voluntary mechanisms' such as the Global Compact and Ruggie’s UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and believes they have not reduced attacks on human rights defenders and are thus insufficient to protect human rights.

groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
Friends of the Earth International

 

CONTACTS
groundWork (local):
Megan Lewis
Media, Information and Publications Manager
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 450 5541
Email: megan@groundwork.org.za

Friends of the Earth (international):
Friends of the Earth International (in Brazil)
Lucia Ortiz
Economic Justice International Program Coordinator
Tel (w): + 55 48 99150071
Email: lucia@natbrasil.org.br

Friends of the Earth Uruguay
Alberto Villarreal
Trade and Investment Campaigner
Mobile: +41 794294275 (in Geneva from 17 to 26 June only)
Tel (w): +598 98 556360 (in Uruguay)
Email: comerc@redes.org.uy

FOOTNOTES
[1] The new report 'We defend the environment, we defend human rights' is available at http://www.foei.org/resources/publications/publications-by-subject/human-rights-defenders-publications/we-defend-the-environment-we-defend-human-rights/
[2] See attached letter to the South Africa Minister of International Relations and Cooperation requesting support at the UNHRC for a resolution to begin a process for establishing a treaty on the issue of business and human rights.
[3] On May 7, 2014, a global alliance of civil society organizations known as the Treaty Alliance representing more than 500 groups called on UN Human Rights Council members to support an initiative in June that would begin a process towards creating an international legally binding treaty to address corporate human rights violations. For more information read:http://www.foei.org/news/groups-call-for-un-treaty-to-tackle-corporate-human-rights-violations/
[4] A regulatory and enforcement framework that is legally binding for corporations has been proposed at the UNHRC by a group of 84 nations since September 2013, and it is a historical demand by Human Rights movements as well as Friends of the Earth International