Indigenous rights defenders in Peru at grave risk due to interests in community lands


On 19th April 2018, Olivia Arévalo Lomas, a spiritual leader of the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous people, was murdered in her community Victoria Gracia, Ucayali. Arévalo advocated for the cultural and environmental rights of the community.  According to Front Line Defenders, Arévalo "is believed to have been targeted in an effort to strike at the heart of the Shipibo-Konibo and discourage the community from pursuing their rights".

The Office of the Ombudsman issued a statement condemning the murder, declaring that:

"...the growing increase in activities such as illegal logging, illegal mining, land trafficking and drug trafficking has placed the members of indigenous peoples in a situation of special vulnerability, putting at risk the lives and integrity of its members, especially of its leaders". (Translated from Spanish)

As in other countries in Latin America, the number of environmental and other rights defenders killed has increased in Perú. Plataforma Europa Perú (Europe Peru Platform) has expressed serious concern over the risk defenders are facing, noting that a comprehensive legal framework to protect human right defenders is lacking in the country.

A recent report by Amnesty International entitled: 'A recipe for criminalization: defenders of the environment, territory and land in Peru and Paraguay' documents how the authorities use harassment, stigmatisation and intimidation tactics to undermine and obstruct communities' efforts to protect their rights to the land or water resources. The report highlights several cases where human rights defenders in Peru are victims of "violence, disproportionate use of force and forced evictions". 

Peaceful Assembly

On 6th April, it was reported that around 200 police officers stormed Universidad Mayor de San Marcos (National University of San Marcos) in Lima and arrested approximately 20 students who had taken over the campus the day before as a sign of protest. The police entered the San Marcos campus through all its gates, under the protection of armoured cars, to force open doors and break down any obstacles protesters had placed in the way to prevent their eviction. Police also used tear gas on students who resisted being evicted from the property.

A student spokesperson described the police action as a violation of the university's autonomy and condemned Dean Orestes Cachay's complicity with the police.

Civil society organisation Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos issued a statement to: 

"urge the students and authorities of the historic National University of San Marcos to restart the dialogue and find the best solution and /or appropriate treatment to the demands raised (...)"


The Association of Journalists of Peru issued a public statement questioning the acquisition of stock market shares that grants 100 percent ownership of the media company EPENSA to El Comercio Group. The Association stated that: 

"The concentration of  media outlets in the hands of a single business group is a threat to the labor and union rights of those who work in these companies and the press sector in general(..)"

According to the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) developed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), there is a high degree of media ownership concentration in Peru as well as a lack of regulation thereof by the state. El Comercio Group maintains a dominant position in the market. In 2016, El Comercio owned approximately 80 percent of the estimated circulation of newspapers and 78 percent of the market readership. Given the situation, RSF stated that:

"High levels of revenue and ownership concentration in the media sector pose a threat to freedom of information in Peru". 

On 27th April 2018, it was reported that four journalists in the province of Anta, Cuzco were attacked by a group of supporters of Carina Calderón, the former director of the Local Education Management Office within the Ministry of Education, who had been questioned and dismissed due to problems during her administration. The journalists who were attacked included Roxana Núñez Guevara, Alberto Suyo Cuaresma, Diego Flores, and Aníbal Cruz.

On 21st April 2018, photographers were reportedly attacked by the National Police while covering International Day of Marijuana celebrations in San Martin Square in Lima. Police officers arrested some participants and used tear gas to disperse them. Photographers were not allowed to cover the arrests and one of them sustained injuries to his eye from a tear gas bomb.