Environmental groups have written to Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo over recent threats against Tony James, the President of the Amerindian Peoples Association in Guyana.
James has actively defended indigenous rights and has lately raised concerns about provisions in the South American country’s reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) program, which could deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Guyana for protecting its forests. James, and his colleagues, are worried that REDD will fail to respect indigenous land rights and generate benefits for forest communities.
According to the Amerindian Peoples Association, James has received several threats during the past few weeks including one instance where his colleague was told “they want your head; they want you dead”.
“Guyana has one of the highest crime rates in the world, so such threats must be taken seriously,” said a Guyanese source in Georgetown who asked that his name not be used.
Amazon Watch, Forest Peoples Programme, and the Rainforest Foundation are now asking their supporters to write President Jagdeo to “guarantee the integrity of Mr. James and his fellow APA members against the perspective threat represented by these recent incidents.”
“Though these are not the first of such kind of incident, this is the first time APA has felt sufficiently concerned about Mr. James’ safety to raise the issue at an international level,” states the letter. “We are concerned about these occurrences based on similar experiences in other contexts. Surveillance and attempts to localize human rights defenders are often a precursor to more serious repression with the objective of silencing their voices.”
“Should the APA report another incident of unknown persons looking for Mr. James or any other situation perceived as threatening, we would request that you launch an impartial and thorough investigation into the situation. We will be paying close attention to the situation over the coming months.”
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Deforestation jumps, but Guyana nonetheless qualifies for REDD payment
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