Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) denounces and condemns the assassination of Sergio Rojas, an indigenous Costa Rican defender of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the Bribri of Salitre territory in southern Costa Rica.
Throughout his life Sergio Rojas was unyielding in his fight for Indigenous Peoples’ autonomy and self-determination who took a stand against the land grabbers of communities’ territories.
Sergio was murdered on the night of Monday 18th March at his home, in the community of Yeri, where the defender of territorial rights was shot 15 times. Hours before his assassination, together with other members of the indigenous community, he filed complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the seizure of indigenous land by non-indigenous persons in their territories, and the years of constant threats they have endured without any effective response from the Costa Rican authorities. This horrific crime took place despite the precautionary measures issued in 2015 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for Salitre, a fact that has shocked the Indigenous Peoples and social movements in the Mesoamerican country and the entire Latin American region.
As an environmental organization committed to the pursuit of environmental, social, economic and gender justice, working for peoples’ rights and the rights of defenders of territories, we hereby express our solidarity with the Costa Rican people, the indigenous communities and the extended family of Sergio Rojas.
We also call on the government of Costa Rica and the competent authorities and institutions to expedite investigations to find the intellectual and material perpetrators of this appalling crime. It is critical that clear explanations be given as to why Indigenous Peoples and their representatives, as in the case of Sergio, who are exposed to permanent violence in their struggle for justice and the defense of their rights, do not have the special protection they are entitled to, which is granted to them by the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR.
We believe the only way to prevent a repeat of cases such as Sergio’s and the continued acts of extermination against peoples and their rights to self-determination and their territories, is by combating impunity and enforcing strict compliance with the rights to autonomy of Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica, based on effective action by the State.
We call on the international community, organizations and social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean and around the world to denounce the murder of Sergio Rojas, and to remain vigilant in the face of the injustices against our peoples and the impunity that protects such actions.
Real World Radio interview (Spanish)