In the 1980s, when he was a student in Kenya, Joab was tortured by the
authorities simply because he campaigned to protect the wetlands near
being detained and tortured for standing up for the environment. People
who are jailed for things like conservationism are commonly framed as
criminals, accused of being separatists, or charged under national
were incarcerated in China on trumped up charges. Rinchen Samdup and
Chime Namgyal ran an award-winning NGO devoted to protecting the
Himalayan environment. Rinchen was sentenced to a five-year jail term
and Chime, a disabled person, was given 21 months of labor and
reportedly being tortured while in prison. A third brother who
petitioned for their release was also tortured and received a 15-year
jail sentence on the basis of fabricated evidence.
the tragic fate of an environmentalist who peacefully campaigned in
defense of old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Bari was an
effective organizer who successfully exposed the truth about a powerful
and corrupt industry. Bari showed us that when billions of dollars are
at stake, people are capable of savage inhumanity.
sinister side to corporate hubris. It shows just how far some
unscrupulous actors will go to protect their interests, but it is also
the story of one woman’s perseverance and ultimate victory. However,
this was a triumph that came at great personal cost.
and subject to death threats, which culminated in an assassination
attempt. On May 24, 1990, as Bari and her friend, Darryl Cherney were
driving to Earth First!’s Redwood Summer, a shrapnel-wrapped pipe bomb
went off under their car. The explosion nearly killed Bari and it
both Bari and Cherney were arrested following the blast and charged with
explosives violations. Despite great personal risk, Bari refused to
fall silent. Before she could be vindicated, Bari died from breast
twelve years after the bombing and five years after Bari’s death. A
federal jury awarded the late Bari and Cherney $4.4 million for
violations of their rights, illegal search and false arrest. A total of
seven law enforcement officials were found to have broken the law and
violated civil rights in the framing of these two people.
during a crackdown in Russia after newly elected president Vladimir
Putin came to power. In 1996, as head of the Federal Security Service
(former KGB), Putin charged Alexsandr Nikitin,
a scientist and former Russian naval captain, with acts of treason for
sharing his concerns about the nuclear hazards of Russian nuclear
against Mr. Nikitin violated international human rights standards and
Russia’s own constitution,” said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive
Director of Amnesty International USA.
toward those who would expose the environmental pollution caused by
Russia’s military industrial complex should not only concern those who
want to avoid future Chernobyl-style nuclear accidents and other
massive environmental catastrophes, it should concern anyone who values
the future of a democratic Russia,” said Carl Pope, Executive Director
of Sierra Club.
declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, the first
in post-Soviet Russia. In 1997, Nikitin was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for environmental heroism.
corrupt courts are often used to curtail the activities of
environmental activists. Felipe Arreaga was an active member of the
OCESP, an organization that was created to peacefully campaign against
deforestation due to illegal logging. It is widely reported that these
illegal logging operations were linked to senior state government
Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, were detained by the military and
tortured to force them to confess to firearms and drugs offenses. The
two were convicted on the basis of fabricated evidence. In 2000, Montiel
was awarded several international prizes, including the Goldman Environmental Prize. In 2001, President Fox ordered their release in the face of massive national and international pressure.
Arreaga was arrested, and charged with a murder he did not commit.
Amnesty International declared Felipe a “prisoner of conscience” and
feared that his arrest and the issuing of arrest warrants against
fourteen former members of the OCESP are reprisals against the
organization for its environmental activism.
Baldenegro and Hermenegildo Rivas, Tarahumara indigenous anti-logging
activists, were finally released from prison after prosecutors concluded
that there was no basis for the weapons and drug charges filed against
them. Several officers have now been charged with planting marijuana and
weapons during the initial arrest.
Salvadoran environmentalists are fighting for a ban on destructive
mining projects. For their efforts, they risk incarceration, injury and
death. Since 2009, people have been threatened, assaulted, or
intimidated in response to their efforts to protect El Salvador’s water,
resources and livelihoods from harmful mining projects.
anti-mining organizer who has been repeatedly subject to harassment and
death threats. On January 20, 2012, Father Neftalí was tied up in his
home by three men. They searched through all of his possessions and took
his computer, cell phones, and an external hard drive. It is suspected
that this was about intelligence gathering as no money was stolen.
the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa, in Spanish).
In a press statement, the Mesa said: “[We] condemn the wave of
persecution against environmentalists and human rights defenders who
like, Father Neftalí, have suffered similar treatment since the
beginning of the anti-mining struggle in El Salvador.”
still alive, others have not been so lucky. In 2009, three similar
activists were savagely murdered for opposing mining in El Salvador:
- Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, co-founder of the Asociación Amigos de San Isidro Cabañas was tortured and murdered in June 2009.
- Ramiro Rivera, president of the Environmental Committee of Cabanas
for the Defense of Water and Culture, was murdered along with Felicita
Echeverria in December 2009.
- Dora Alicia Recinos Sorto, 8 months pregnant, was murdered in
December 2009, by assassins who were in search of her husband. Her small
child was also injured.
struggle by the Mesa and local communities, they have succeeded in
forcing the government to undertake a strategic environmental impact
assessment of mining in the country. Although it is being challenged in
the courts, mining permits were even denied to some of the most
of the countless thousands that have worked to defend the Earth. Even
now there are thousands of environmental activists that are incarcerated
or being threatened with death simply because they are trying to
protect a forest, a mountain or a stream.
those who protect the Earth is a bankrupt society. Peacefully defending
the planet is not a crime, it is a virtue. Just as we recognize people
for their brave defense of human rights, we must also recognize people
for defending the planet.
and it is sometimes won at great cost. We owe it to those on the
ecological front lines to remember their dedication, courage and
resilience. Perhaps we could even strive to cultivate those qualities in
Cambodian Environmentalist Murdered
Who Bombed Judi Bari? (Video Trailer)
Environmental Problems and Activists Struggling Against Abuse (Video)
Another Amazon Environmentalist Killed (Video)
Environmentalists Murdered for Protecting the Amazon (Video)
Murder of Two Environmentalists in the Amazon (Video)